Chapter 4. Food and Beverage Services
The food and beverage sector is a vibrant and multifaceted part of our society. Michael Hurst, famous restaurateur and former chair of the US National Restaurant Association, championed the idea that all guests should be received with the statement “Glad you are here” (Tripp, 1992; Marshall 2001). That statement is the perfect embodiment of what F&B is to the hospitality industry — a mix of service providers who welcome guests with open arms and take care of their most basic needs, as well as their emotional well-being.
Take a Closer Look: Michael Hurst
Michael Hurst preached to students, industry participants, and university colleagues alike, saying that “The most precious gift you can give your Guests is the gift of Friendship” (Tripp, 1992; Marshall 2001). To learn more about this legendary character, visit In My Opinion: Michael E. Hurst [PDF].
The social fabric of our country, its residents, and visitors will change over time, and so too will F&B. What will not change in spite of how we divide the segments — into tourists or locals — is that the sector is at its best when food and beverages are accompanied by a social element, extending from your dining companions to the front and back of the house.
So far, we have covered the transportation, accommodation, and food and beverage sectors. In the next two chapters, we’ll explore the recreation and entertainment sector, starting with recreation in Chapter 5.
- Assets: items of value owned by the business and used in the production and service of the dining experience
- Average cheque: total sales divided by number of guests served
- Back of house: food production areas not accessible to guests and not generally visible; also known as heart of house
- BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association (BCRFA): representing the interests of more than 3,000 of the province’s foodservice operators in matters including wages, benefits, liquor licences, and other relevant matters
- Beverage costs: beverages sold in liquor-licensed operations; this usually only includes alcohol, but in unlicensed operations, it includes coffee, tea milk, juices, and soft drinks
- Captured patrons: consumers with limited selection or choice of food or beverage provider given their occupation or location
- Commercial foodservice: operations whose primary business is food and beverage
- Cross-utilization: when a menu is created to make multiple uses of a small number of staple pantry ingredients, helping to keep food costs down
- Dine-and-dash: the term commonly used in the industry for when a patron eats but does not pay for his or her meal
- Ethnic restaurant: a restaurant based on the cuisine of a particular region or country, often reflecting the heritage of the head chef or owner
- Family/casual restaurant: restaurant type that is typically open for all three meal periods, offering affordable prices and able to serve diverse tastes and accommodate large groups
- Fine dining restaurant: licensed food and beverage establishment characterized by high-end ingredients and preparations and highly trained service staff
- Food and beverage (F&B): type of operation primarily engaged in preparing meals, snacks, and beverages, to customer order, for immediate consumption on and off the premises
- Food cost: price including freight charges of all food served to the guest for a price (does not include food and beverages given away, which are quality or promotion costs)
- Food primary: a licence required to operate a restaurant whose primary business is serving food (rather than alcohol)
- Foodie: a term (often used by the person themselves) to describe a food and beverage enthusiast
- Front of house: public areas of the establishment; in quick-service restaurants, it includes the ordering and product serving area
- Full-service restaurants: casual and fine dining restaurants where guests order food seated and pay after they have finished their meal
- Liquor primary licence: the type of licence needed in BC to operate a business that is in the primary business of selling alcohol (most pubs, nightclubs, and cabarets fall into this category)
- Non-commercial foodservice: establishments where food is served, but where the primary business is not food and beverage service
- Operating supplies: generally includes reusable items including cutlery, glassware, china, and linen in full-service restaurants
- Pop-up restaurants: temporary restaurants with a known expiry date hosted in an unusual location, which tend to be helmed by a well-known or up-and-coming chef and use word-of-mouth in their promotions
- Primary costs: food, beverage, and labour costs for an F&B operation
- Profit: the amount left when expenses (including corporate income tax) are subtracted from sales revenue
- Quick-service restaurant (QSR): an establishment where guests pay before they eat; includes counter service, take-out, and delivery
- Restaurants Canada: representing over 30,000 food and beverage operations including restaurants, bars, caterers, institutions, and suppliers
- Revenue: sales dollars collected from guests
- Third space: a term used to describe F&B outlets enjoyed as “hang out” spaces for customers where guests and service staff co-create the experience
- Tip-out: the practice of having front-of-house staff pool their gratuities, or pay individually, to ensure back-of-house staff receive a percentage of the tips
- Upscale casual restaurant: emerging in the 1970s, a style of restaurant that typically only serves dinner, intended to bridge the gap between fine dining and family/casual restaurants
- Looking at Table 4.1, what was the average volume of sales per F&B establishment in BC in 2019? What was it for Alberta? What about the national average? What might account for these differences? List at least three contributing factors.
- Looking at the same table, how many F&B “units” were there in BC in 2019?
- What are the two main classifications for food and beverage operations and which is significantly larger in terms of market share?
- Should gratuities be abolished in favor of all-inclusive pricing? Consider the point of view of the server, the owner, and the guest in your analysis.
- Think of the concept of the third space, and name two of these types of operations in your community.
- Have you worked in a restaurant or foodservice operation? What are the three important lessons you learned about work while there? If you have not, interview a classmate who has experience in the field and find out what three lessons he or she would suggest.
- What is your favourite restaurant? What does it do so well to have become your favorite? What would you recommend it do to improve your dining experience even more?
- What was your all-time best restaurant dining experience? Compare and contrast this with one of your worst dining experiences. For each of these, including a description of:
- The food
- The behaviour of restaurant staff
- Ambience (music, decor, temperature, the comfort of chairs, lighting)
- The reason for your visit
- Your mood upon entering the establishment
Case Study: Restaurant Behaviour – Then and Now
The following story made the rounds via social media in late 2014. While the claim has not been verified, it certainly rings true for a number of F&B professionals who have experienced this phenomenon. The story is as follows: A busy New York City restaurant kept getting bad reviews for slow service, so they hired a firm to investigate. When they compared footage from 2004 to footage from 2014, they made some pretty startling discoveries. So shocking, in fact, that they ranted about it in an anonymous post on Craigslist:
We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same as ten years ago, the service seems very slow. One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and/or they needed to wait too long for a table. We’ve added more staff and cut back on the menu items but we just haven’t been able to figure it out.
We hired a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was the employees needing more training and the kitchen staff not being up to the task of serving that many customers.
Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it’s digital, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we needed it for something.
The investigators suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved ten years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn’t find any tapes at all.
We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system!
The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1, 2004. The restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014, with roughly the same amount of customers as ten years before.
We carefully looked at over 45 transactions in order to determine what has been happening:
Here’s a typical transaction from 2004:
Customers walk in. They are seated and are given menus. Out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.
Customers spend 8 minutes on average before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.
Waiters shows up almost instantly and takes the order.
Appetizers are fired within 6 minutes; obviously the more complex items take longer.
Out of 45 customers 2 sent their items back.
Waiters keep an eye on their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.
After guests are done, the check is delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.
Average time from start to finish: 1 hour, 5 minutes.
Here’s what happened in 2014:
Customers walk in. Customers get seated and are given menus, and out of 45 customers 18 request to be seated elsewhere.
Before even opening the menu most customers take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are texting or browsing.
Seven of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of five minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.
After a few minutes of letting the customers review the menu, waiters return to their tables. The majority of customers have not even opened their menus and ask the waiter to wait a bit.
When customers do open their menus, many place their phones on top and continue using their activities.
Waiters return to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. Most customers ask for more time.
Finally a table is ready to order. Total average time from when a customer is seated until they place their order is 21 minutes.
Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes; obviously the more complex items take way longer.
26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.
14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.
9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.
27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.
Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 more minutes from when they were done eating until they requested a check.
Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.
8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the restaurant.
Average time from start to finish: 1:55
We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?
Now it’s your turn. Imagine you are the restaurant operator in question and answer the questions below.
- What could you, as the owner, try to do to improve the turnover time? Come up with at least three ideas.
- Now put yourself in the position of a server. Do your ideas still work from this perspective?
- Lastly, look at your typical customer. How will he or she respond to your proposals?
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