6 Business Lessons Learned from Working with World-Leading Restaurant & Hospitality Brands
Expert insight on tactical, actionable ways food service, hotels and other hospitality businesses can create smarter, safer, socially responsible kitchens that increase efficiency, productivity and profits
Accidents in commercial kitchens are an all-too-common occurrence, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting nearly 200,000 food service industry injuries in a single year—accidents that often result in lost days of work, job transfer or other employee restrictions that all have a tremendously negative impact on a restaurant or hospitality business’ bottom line.
Human resources aside, kitchen fires are another shared bane of the restaurant and hospitality trade, with the U.S. Fire Administration reporting “cooking” as the cause for the majority of fires during the 3-year reporting period. During that period, an estimated 5,600 fires each year resulted in a staggering $116 million in property damage—entirely preventable, unplanned and oft-debilitating company expenditures. Then there are costs relating to other typical safety issues like the notorious slips and falls, burns and other such calamities associated with hot oil—a key culprit that, itself, racks up an oppressive glut of Workers' Compensation claims.
While such statistics-driven safety concerns in the food service and hospitality realms are nothing new, technological innovations and other modern and strategic means of contending with such issues is a landscape that changes monthly and weekly, if not daily. Solutions are needed, both physical and ideological, that can readily result in far smarter, safer and more efficient kitchens to enhance morale, reduce staff churn, bolster profitability and elevate industries at large.
With this in mind, I sought insight from hospitality and food service c-suite strategist Jeff Kiesel—a former GE executive and current corporate CEO of Restaurant Technologies, Inc. who’s earned a reputation as an industry innovation and safety voice of authority. Given that his firm boasts a roster of multi-billion dollar customers that includes titans of industry like McDonald’s, KFC and Marriott Hotels, I asked if he could share some of the key business lessons he’s learned from working with world-leading brands. This is what he had to say:
- Customer Insights: World-class food and hospitality companies make many of their business decisions based on laser sharp, analytics-driven insights that veritably impact the activities of all departments in the organization to one extent or another—at the corporate office as well as each site within their portfolio. They’re keenly aware that offering, and ultimately selling, a product or service is the net result of having first built a strategically-crafted, risk-mitigated relationship—one that continues to be honed based on key data points well after a deal is closed. Their own internal sales activities aside, the best companies in the world also demand tangible evidence demonstrating how their offerings are impacting their customers. Successful companies know, in specific terms and even from various viewpoints, facts that are germane to the kind of solution they offer. Things like if their offering is saving customers money; how its impacting employee, customer and vendor retention and referrals; if it’s increasing operational efficiencies, productivity or creating a safer work space. Such profiling of both prospects and existing customers—or perhaps even lost accounts to the extent possible—can be a determining factor that sets your operation apart from its closest competitors. In today’s market where competition is typically neck and neck, activities are best driven by data-induced insights that are optimally developed with a robust CRM software solution. The best run companies in the world vigilantly maintain a true and holistic understanding of the value they proffer within the marketplace.
- Metrics-Minded Technology Innovation: Much of the equipment and technology found in the food service industry centers around reducing costs, improving efficiency, ensuring food quality and helping managers better handle their teams. However, this technology is viewed with eye toward what will provide the best return on investment and improve an operation’s bottom line. To achieve this, the highest caliber operations focus on technology that’s easy to implement, scalable and also provides metrics that are of primary interest to restaurant executives–things like customer visits and staff costs as well as employee retention through job satisfaction. As with the customer insights discussed above, analytics relating to equipment, hardware, software, applications or any other tech-forward procurement must be easily discernable, providing evidence-based numbers and trend patterns on things like what it costs to continue operating the old way versus what it would cost to implement the new technology. Top-tier food service operations don’t make assumptions, but rather data-driven decisions based on key learning on multiple fronts. In doing so, the most successful companies are able to demonstrate the value of a tech-driven solution within 30 days of deployment.
- Safety: Sixty percentof Workers' Compensation incidents in restaurants are related to the handling of cooking oil—including burns, slips and falls or back strains. Those companies utilizing a closed-loop oil management system allows food service employees to safely and easily dispose of used oil and fill a fryer with new oil with the flip of a switch. While the bottom line is always top-of-mind, world leading brands ensure employee safety is of the utmost importance and paramount among all. By eliminating one of the most dangerous restaurant kitchen tasks, these corporations take proactive, preventive and multi-faceted measures to best assure staffers are not at risk for oil-related injuries like slips, falls and burns.
- Operational Excellence: Companies successful at a global level also ensure that their management teams at every level, from the c-suite to the front-line, understand their role in ensuring their kitchen teams aretrained, enthused and working cross-functionally while adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs) around cleanliness, food safety and food preparation. They have a lot on their plate, needless to say. According to the National Restaurant Association, the hospitality turnover rate was more than 72 percent in 2015, an increase from 66.7 percent in 2014. It’s an uphill battle. However, high caliber companies utilize proven technologies and protocols, and implement methodologies allowing managers to establish an ever-safer, simpler operating environment where they can focus more on cultivating people, both employees and customers, and less time on administrative tasks.
- Strengthening the Workforce: World-leading restaurant and hospitality brands understand that thoroughly onboarding team members into a company’s culture, with an understanding of its history, purpose, vision and strategy as well as job-specific training, is mission critical. A one-to-one relationship based on trust and candor establishes a path to on-the-job achievement and even growth as staffers evolve in the organization, taking on bigger and more complex roles. For the employee’s part, ongoing training and education as well as an investment in active listening, understanding and ideation is key for proffering loyalty and attaining career advancement. Large successful corporations purposefully and deliberately focus on strengthening employees relative to both relationships and skill level. Cultivating an employee base that’s enthusiastic, well-trained and well-equipped to do their jobs, also understandingwhy they are doing any given task, creates an environment of respect that will foster higher accountability and ownership by employees.
- Corporate Citizenship: Successful food service corporations worldwide understand the extent to which their company impacts its community–whether that community is the municipality where it resides, or the industry it serves. The news cycles are faster than ever before, with social media driving demand for information at a rapid pace. This creates a heightened need for a focused work culture that, while talent-driven, carries with it a ton of heart. These companies take their hospitality mandate and corporate social responsibility program quite seriously. As an effective way to fulfill this need, they consistently participate in philanthropic projects. Whether that be establishing and continually contributing to an educational foundation offering merit-based college scholarships to employee family members as my own company does, donating goods or providing services pro-bono, or literally picking up litter in the neighborhood park, successful global companies wholeheartedly embrace corporate citizenship and make it a foundational pillar of their organizations.
Kiesel’s takeaways from working with top global restaurant and hospitality brands makes clear that a holistic approach to business—one that keeps talent cultivation, character and efficiency top-of-mind—creates team loyalty and support, and fosters increased market share. As well, Kiesel is eager to underscore that a company’s culture is nothing short of imperative for building a successful, growth-oriented operation, noting, “The investment is in the long-term success of our clients, for sure, but in gaining the loyalty of our people within the company, as well.” Indeed.
Branding, business and entrepreneurship success pundit, Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and lauded communications strategist. As the Executive Editor and Producer of "The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered brand and consumer product trends voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. Merilee may be reached online at www.TheLuxeList.com.
About Jeff Kiesel
With more than 25 years of senior leadership experience, Jeff Kiesel is both the head and heart of Restaurant Technologies, Inc. He led the company to expand into new regional service locations, helped develop new services and internal innovation, and cultivated the Total Oil Management™ portal to meet the ever-changing needs of its foodservice customers. Restaurant Technology develops, deploys, and maintains cost saving and productivity accelerating technologies through a multi-faceted product offering, providing customer insights that automate and simplify core restaurant operations, and creates safer and smarter kitchens. RT is also the leading provider of cooking oils for the largest restaurant and hotel brands in the world including McDonald’s, KFC and Marriot Hotels. Thus, potentially dangerous jobs have less accidents, lives are saved, less families have to deal with the trauma of moderate to catastrophic work related injuries, and RT retains 97% of its customers. Jeff joined in 2005 as CEO and stands by the set of values they call the 5 Cs: customer, character, commitment, courage and community. Relatedly, Jeff drives the Restaurant Technologies Cares program and is Chairman of the RTI Educational Foundation. He also serves on the Nixon Medical Board of Directors and the SALO Advisory Board. Jeff held previous positions as CEO, president and senior vice president in both large and small companies across multiple industries, including 18 years with GE and GE Capital, and C-level positions with G&K Services and VIZTA3D Inc. Jeff earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Williams College, Williamstown, MA, and an MBA from the Krannert School of Management, Purdue University. As a former college football player, he is also an Insanity Workout and P90X/P90X2 loyalist, so you can find him crunching and punching most days of the week.