Mining Restaurant Data for Server Training and Development … and Profits
By Gigi Cohen
03/04/2012 – In early February Avero Inc. announced “Macaroni Grill Rolls Out Interactive Mentoring System.” For me, a story about mentoring waiters and waitresses, who are the front line of the restaurant industry, was worth exploring.
I was invited to visit Avero’s New York City offices and was greeted by their Business Development Manager, Christopher Ager and Ally Welsh, Avero’s Events Coordinator. While I had no idea what to expect, the words “interactive” and “system” in the headline made me imagine some type of web based utility on a hand held device which monitored the server’s every move. Frankly, I hated what my mind had conjured up.
Ager and Welsh had thoughtfully prepared to show me everything I needed to know about their system, which I quickly realized had little to do with technology. Avero was founded in 1999 by Damian Mogavero. Before founding the company, he had been the Chief Financial Officer at a restaurant group and was frustrated by the lack of relevant insights he was able to gather from his restaurants’ sales data. Mogavero left the restaurant group with the mission of helping restaurateurs streamline operations, drive revenue, reduce costs and provide a better guest experience.
A dozen years later, Avero regularly analyzes $13 billion in restaurant receipts from thousands of establishments across 21 countries. The most important part of the Avero Single Server Mentoring Program, the specific product I was there to explore, is that the data drives human interaction between a restaurant’s management team and its wait staff. Essentially, Avero gathers the receipt data from the restaurant through back office data sharing. Avero analyses the data by individual server and accounts for variables such as time of day and outlier sales such as a $400 bottle of champagne. It then compares all of the restaurants servers to each other and comes up with the key metric of average check per server. Avero then identifies the servers who are not performing to the team’s average and guides the restaurant’s management team on effective communication to drive performance results.
While contracts are generally annual, the initial Avero Single Server Mentoring Program is a 10 week process that has built-in management accountability. Putting it simply, by taking away the financial analysis involved with ranking servers, the restaurant’s management has more time to spend with team mentoring and server salesmanship.
According to Jim Hofer, Director of Training and Service Excellence of CRAVE, a Minnesota-based restaurant group and an Avero Single Server Mentoring client, Avero “gives you the data that helps you manage and move the staff.” Hofer suggests that “the system enables CRAVE to appropriately apply what Danny Meyer (legendary restaurateur and author) labels ‘constant, gentle pressure’."
Importantly, Avero fits snuggly into the CRAVE University, a continuing education program developed to help servers learn how to enhance sales and understand the key metrics around their own success. While CRAVE seeks to hire front of the house staff who have already exhibited a “spirit of hospitality” in a previous job, it is Hofer’s mission to help each individual reach a level of professionalism and personal satisfaction that translates into higher sales for the restaurant and improved tips for the individual.
From a traditional training and development standpoint, in restaurants managing 40 to 50 servers, mentoring not supported by data can be misinterpreted as “he likes her better than me,” or “I never get the better tables.” Not only is it demoralizing, the manager may actually be wrong. By using ongoing data and consistent team-driven messaging, individuals understand an employer’s realistic expectations and are empowered to step up to meet the norm.
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