This article originally appeared in Bar Business Magazine.
The 2022 NFL season kicks off on Thursday, September 8, which means increased bar traffic if your venue airs the games. What is typically a season for increased revenue and busier weekdays on game nights can also mean an added source of stress given the current labor shortage.
We spoke with John Moody, chief strategist and co-founder of Restaurant365, a cloud-based software for business management, about how bars/restaurants can prepare for this busier football season with fewer staff members.
Bar Business Media (BBM): With the labor shortage still affecting bars, how can they handle an increase in guests during football season without sacrificing service?
John Moody (JM): The best way to avoid sacrificing good service is to prepare for an influx on the staffing end, though this isn’t always possible. Managers can optimize menus so that similar, easy-to-make, and profitable items are ordered the most. Managing inventory so that orders run as smoothly as possible will help ensure customer satisfaction. Even if face-to-face interaction is limited, if the food and drink are high quality and arrive quickly, customers will be satisfied.
BBM: How can they ensure that despite the labor shortage the back-of-the-house runs smoothly as well?
JM: The best way for the back-of-house to run smoothly is to prepare and stay organized before and after a shift, specifically through a standardized and digitized opening and closing process. Having a system in place will lead to less roadblocks mid-shift. Checklists can help maintain inventory, ensure a proper layout, and confirm that kitchen staff are all up to date and trained. Additionally, checklists can help to ensure the team is on the same page and that shift-to-shift information and updates are communicated so essential tasks don’t slip through the cracks.
BBM: Is there anything bars can do to ensure their staff isn’t overwhelmed/stressed during busy football nights?
JM: One of the most important actions to alleviate stress is to develop a winning company culture. Managers should lead by example, promoting actionable goals and recognizing and celebrating employees for achieving them. Give credit to employees that come up with new ideas and let them take ownership. Creating a culture like this encourages employees to stay at the business longer and will help colleagues build trust and rely on each other. Busy nights, even without a staffing shortage, can be stressful at times, and football season can bring in a rowdy crowd.
By optimizing labor on hand, ensuring roles and expectations are clearly communicated, and checking in with employees, stress levels can be managed. I also recommend menu optimization to keep the back-of-house on track.
BBM: Supply chain issues continue to persist as well. Any advice for bar owners on how to keep their inventory stocked?
JM: Forecasting sales is the best way to manage expectations, and this can most easily be done by factoring in recent sales, last-year’s football season sales, any recent local-competition changes, and even the weather. Game days can shake things up, however, and inventory tracking will help. Bar and restaurant managers should evaluate their inventory needs regularly.
Software can allow a bar to use shopping lists to order easily, with company-wide catalog and inventory management. The last thing a restaurant or bar wants is to be out of a popular item on game day, so stocking extra and keeping an inventory log can go a long way.
We encourage bar and restaurant operators to know their vendor’s item unit, consider the timing of their order (and give a day or two in advance), and have a back-up vendor in case delivery is delayed or items are short.
When items are delivered, the best way to maintain inventory is to get organized. Track everything upfront, put everything away immediately, and practice a first-in, first-out strategy to prevent spoilage. Worse than not having an item is having an item that you can’t use because it’s gone bad.
BBM: Do you recommend bars create a special menu or run food/drink specials during football games?
JM: Menu engineering can be a great tactic to keep back-of-house operations streamlined and keep guests coming back. Offering easy-to-make, high-quality drinks and food as the only items available or as discounted items will support more efficient service, and fans will be more likely to return when they get what they need quickly. Ideally, managers can promote highly profitable items here.
BBM: Any advice for how bars can market their football specials/showing of games?
JM: Social media can be a great tactic for marketing to customers. In the restaurant world, 65% of patrons tend to be return customers, which presents a great opportunity for bar operators. By encouraging fans to follow social pages for a deal or special, they can stay up to date about the timing for games.
Bars and restaurants can create specific schedules with their personal branding to let patrons know when their team is scheduled to play.
BBM: How can bars ensure guest retention week after week during football season?
JM: Bars should deliver a high-quality experience from great food and drinks to memorable service. On top of game-day specific specials or menus, during football season, bars can use other tactics such as a fan loyalty program. Punch cards, coupons, or loyalty programs are inexpensive compared to marketing costs to bring in new customers. A game day specific program will keep customers coming back week after week, building an exciting atmosphere of like-minded football fans.