The Challenge:

J&G Grill is an upscale casual restaurant located in the St. Regis Bal Harbour in Miami, Florida. It is part of the distinguished Culinary Concepts restaurant group by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and is critically acclaimed in the Miami market pulling in diners from around the city. It was opened in January 2012 and was listed as one of the most anticipated openings of 2012 by Forbes Magazine. The food consists of items with simple grill preparation, accented with bold sauces and sides. The restaurant started with strong performance in 2012, but, after experiencing significant management turnover, was struggling to meet sales goals.

Robert Delarosa, GM of J&G Grill, has an impressive history of bringing high end restaurants around the country to the next level in recognition. During his career, he brought Azul of the Mandarin Oriental to Forbes 5 star status, he launched STIR Lounge and PT78 Restaurant in the Platinum Hotel & Spa and quickly earned them the “Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator, and he has worked with legendary establishments such as Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Throughout all of his positions in the industry, he has always seen the value in leveraging analytics to improve performance. However, he also has continuously run into the same issue “no matter what systems he encountered they were under-integrated tools that most operators under-utilized.”

Robert joined the J&G Grill team in June of 2013 and immediately faced his first challenge of recovering capture rate and driving average check to meet sales goals.  Despite holding high acclaim in the Miami market, J&G Grill had lost momentum in the 2nd year of operations and capture rate had decreased about 20%. Miami has a booming restaurant scene and crowds shift with each new opening, so maintaining your top place in the market is challenging. Robert was introduced to Avero’s restaurant software by the Culinary Concepts team and immediately saw its huge potential to help him with his average check goals.

 
Time to Take Action:

Robert jumped in with a 2- part approach to tackle decreasing sales from a decreasing capture rate and leveraged several other Avero solutions to help him save time daily. His sales strategy consisted of the following:

1) Optimize menu offerings to improve popularity and enhance sales. Robert worked extensively with his new executive chef to balance Culinary Concepts’ brand standards and Miami market preferences. Culinary Concepts includes standards about seasonal ingredients and preparation. In a market like Miami, seasonal ingredients and dishes do not always align with market preferences. Robert and the chef used Avero’s item sales solutions to evaluate trends in customer orders over the last year. He looked specifically at the item/cover % in Avero (the popularity %) of various menu categories to see how the market responded. They were able to easily use this historic performance in Avero to really hone in on the best ways to incorporate seasonal ingredients, but also meet guests’ preferences.

They also wanted ways to make it easier for the servers to drive average check, so they added modifiers to dishes and sides to allow guests to pick their experience and to give servers more opportunities to engage the guest. By optimizing the menu to meet guest preferences, brand standards, and give servers opportunities to drive average check, they were able to work towards their sales goals.

2) Target server improvement to drive average check. In addition to optimizing the menu for servers, Robert wanted to work with the service team to hone their skills. He could clearly see how different backgrounds and menu knowledge greatly impacted server performance in Avero. For example, his servers with previous experience at Italian restaurants dominated Italian wine sales, which helped their average check. He used Avero’s service solutions to identify opportunities for the team and individuals, worked with them on skills through tastings and quizzes, and then held contests to incentivize strategic sales. Avero’s solutions made each of these steps easy and delivered updates through email. Robert’s targeted server training complimented the menu work to reach sales goals and get the most out of every cover.

Robert worked beyond his goals of increasing capture rate and driving average check to improve the restaurant. The J&G Grill office’s location a half mile from the restaurant through the hotel made quick checks on performance incredibly time consuming, which meant it happened less than it should. He leveraged the Avero Mobile to get the insights he needed, specifically…

1) Leverage the small pockets of time he has. He has 20 minutes on his bus ride to work and from work and a couple minutes in the morning and before bed. Robert can capitalize on these pockets of time to understand YOY performance, trends in average check and see notes on what happened the previous day without being in the restaurant. He feels it makes him a more efficient manager and gives him back precious personal time.

2) Make daily improvements without being tied to a desk. When Robert is at work, he wants to spend it in the restaurant, not in the office (a half mile from the restaurant). In the restaurant he can put improvements into action and see some details the numbers cannot show.  On the floor he can quickly pull up top and bottom servers and compare that to table-side manner. He can compare current lunch sales to the same time last year or previous like days. He can even pull his schedule together based on historical volume.

The Bottom Line:

Avero’s restaurant solutions have helped Robert hit J&G Grill’s sales goals. Within 2 months of joining the restaurant, average check was up $5 YOY and within 6 months of joining the restaurant, average check was up $25 YOY. By Q3 of 2013, total sales, covers and average check were exceeding YOY performance by over 9%.  He moved the restaurant’s Forbes’ 2 star rating up to a 4 star rating- joining the ranks of only 150 restaurants in the country. Robert was able to combine his experience in the Miami market with the power of Avero to better understand guest preferences, adapt the dining experience at J&G Grill to meet those needs and drive YOY sales. He believes that Avero has made him a “more sound general manager” by allowing him to make daily, not just monthly, improvements and see the impact of his work.

 

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