In the changing restaurant industry, new needs arise on a daily basis. More often than not, even restaurateurs who are well versed in the arts of the industry hit a roadblock and need a second opinion or a helping hand. That is where a food consultant comes into the picture. They extend their professional services which are backed by years of experience for specifically the area chosen by the owner and so help the restaurant achieve its goal. A food service consultant in the simplest of terms is a professional who brings technical know-how of and the means to achieve certain goals set by the restaurant (his/her client) for a limited period of time and for an agreed fee.
You may need to rely upon food consultants for a variety of reasons starting from lack of knowledge/ experience regarding one part of the business to needing a more innovative solution for your specific problem. For more knowledge of what are the situations in which you should employ the services of a restaurant consultancy, read 6 Reasons Why You Need Restaurant Consulting For Your Restaurant Business
Now that you know what a food consultant is and how they work based on projects, next is to understand how to hire a food consultant for your restaurant.
Hiring A Food Consultant For Your Restaurant
A food consultant is not simply an outsider who you will tell what to do, he/she will be in charge of making important decisions and delivering results that can impact the future of your restaurant. Thus, it is of utmost importance that you are extremely thorough in your process of recruiting a food consultant. Follow these guidelines while hiring a food consultant for your restaurant.
1. Define Your Own Restaurant Business Goals
First things first, you need to define exactly what you need the services of a consultant for, what will be the scope of the services and the project and what result you expect along with the desired impact that you want it to create. Determining your own goal this way will help you gain clarity regarding the extent of services you need and what level the expected result should be on. Further, it will help the consultant as well in determining exactly what services he needs to extend and give him further clarity regarding the level of results that he needs to deliver. This activity will also set the premise for setting the budget of the service and the charge of the consultant.
2. Do a Preliminary Research
The next step would be to conduct a preliminary research regarding different foodservice consultants. You can take to google for this but don’t just stick to the online material. Look at hoardings and ads and even ask your friends in the industry. Your preliminary research is just listing various consultants that you can consider. Further filtering will enable you to reach a comprehensive decision but the bigger the base group, the better. You can even consider asking people in the industry that you are not directly linked to through Facebook groups or forums. This will give you a lot of options to start researching.
3. Look for Referrals
Once your preliminary list is ready, ask around for referrals. Ask people in your industry how their experience with different consultants was. The purpose of this step is not Selection but Elimination. Eliminate those who have a poor reputation or more than a couple of bad referrals. As said earlier, the restaurant consultant will have the huge responsibility of the future of your restaurant and you can not just give this responsibility to anyone.
4. Do a Background Check
Once you have eliminated the food consultants with low repute within the restaurant space, next is conducting a background check on the remaining ones. The purpose of this check is to get to know the consultants enough to understand if you want to go forward with contacting them. Ideally, your ‘To Contact List’ should not exceed more than 5-6 consultants. You can keep some others on back up but select up to 5 to restaurant consultants and get in touch with them first. The things you should look at during the background check are:-
(i) Goals and Vision
Do the food consultant’s goal and policy of working match your own? If his code of professionalism or his ethics of business are very different from yours, no matter how competent both of you are the service he provides or the way he /she provides this service will be very different from what both of you wanted, and thus the collaboration will be very unsatisfactory. To avoid this situation it’s better to first and foremost find someone whose end vision matches yours so you can work together harmoniously.
(ii) Past Client List
The type of client’s the consultant has served will give you an idea of the level of projects that he/she has managed and what his/her speciality is as far as restaurant industry sectors are concerned. If the consultant deals only in fine dining restaurants and you are a quick service restaurant, needless to say, hiring him/ her no matter how glowing his experience is, will not be useful. You also need to look at the level of involvement the food consultant had in the restaurants they have worked with.
(iii) Area of Specialty
Linked to the point mentioned above, you need to understand what the consultant’s speciality is. Does he/she only deal with expansions or marketing or food health codes or is he/she limited to a service sector like a QSR? All this information is crucial for you to make the correct decision.
(iv) Price Strategy
Next is understanding the price strategy of the food service consultant and does it work for you. Remember while being conservative about the price is okay don’t be penny wise and pound loose. Understand the price strategy, look at if it works for you and if it is only slightly over but the consultant is good to connect to him/her anyway. There may be room for a bargain or you may realize that they are worth the charge that they are taking.
(v) Consultant’s Way Of Catering Service
How does the consultant handle its clients? Will he/she be present by your side throughout the project or work at an hour per week basis? How fast is the delivery of results? All this is crucial to look at.
5. Ask For A Proposal
After connecting to your top five food service consultants, explain what you need them for and ask for a written proposal on how they plan to help you. Carefully compare each proposal and select one or maximum two consultants. While finalizing them remember that the proposal is the reflection of the capability of the consultant. Waitlist two or three in case the first two do not work out but for the next step, have two in hand.
6. Take an Interview
In this step remember your consultant needs to be as meticulously selected as a business partner. In the interview get to know them, see if they really are as good as you thought they will be, ask them to elaborate the proposal, put up difficult hypothetical situations in front of them to understand how they will handle surprise backfires and try to see if you would be willing to work with them as a person.
7. Finalize The Payment Structure
Once you are happy with the interview the last step is to finalize the payment structure. It can be on an hourly basis, a fixed fee or even based on how long the project will take. See what payment structure will work best for you. If it is based on time, make sure that you set up daily goals and a tentative period within which the goal must be achieved.
Hiring a food service consultant is almost like choosing a business partner, so make sure that you are thorough and satisfied with your choice before anything else. Your mental satisfaction will play the most important role and is the point of the process altogether. Now that we have laid down how you can hire a food consultant, follow this method and you will not be disappointed in your choice.