Menu Tools

Articles by Menu Tools
"Ex-chef Cooks Up Cost-Control Web Tool For Restaurants"
Trade Mission to Boston by Team Canada Atlantic
"Your last day is when?"  Canadian Pizza Magazine Sept/Oct 2004
Improving staff retention through leadership. Investing in your staff’s attitude and making your establishment unique in it’s employee relations is as important as anything you do.
“Choosing an effective accounting and cost management software” CRFA Web site 2005
“In praise of POS” Canadian Pizza Magazine, Wayne McKay’s Tips for Pizza Operators, November 2004
“Cheese, Nice to know .. Need to know” Canadian Pizza Magazine, Wayne McKay’s Tips for Pizza Operators, October 2004
“My Wife Complains a lot” Canadian Pizza Magazine
Why Restaurateurs should encourage complaints

Nathan White

Telegraph-Journal, Published Wednesday February 13th, 2008, Appeared on page B1

MONCTON - A Riverview-based entrepreneur who says he can double restaurants' profit margins is hoping to build a worldwide clientele.

Menu Tools Inc. is owned and operated by Wayne McKay, a former executive chef who has turned 30 years of kitchen experience into the Menu Maestro, a sophisticated, but easy-to-use, online tool that helps restaurants get the most out of their menus.

Thanks to thin profit margins that average between three and four per cent, eight out of 10 restaurants go out of business in their first five years, said McKay.

Coincidentally, he says, "more than eight out of 10 independent restaurants do not have a formal system to cost and price their menu.

"It's best-guess. They're managing blind and busy being busy," he said. "We can coach them on how to cost their menu, where they may be leaving money on the table and where they may be able to provide extra value to the customer."

McKay says he already has hundreds of customers in North America and believes there's a huge market for his product. He developed it through years of tinkering: he worked for the World Trade Centre in Halifax and Marine Atlantic ferries before starting his own consulting business.

"I fell in love with the business end of the restaurant business," said McKay, who has been working in restaurants since he was 14. "I learned to shop smart, price smart and sell smart."

He learned how to work out the costs of a menu - he calls it "menu engineering-" and gradually improved his methods from pencil and calculator to the Menu Maestro.

Restaurants subscribe to the online tool, enter their costs and recipes and can then see the cost of specific menu items.

"When I make pizza sauce, I make a batch of, like, 50 litres," said Kurt Wermelinger, chef at Moncton's Pump House Brewery, which uses the system. With Menu Maestro, "I can divide it up into how much a litre costs, how much a portion costs and when I create a pizza, [the information] is already there."

Meanwhile, at Hynes Restaurant in Moncton, owner Jamie Hynes has been preparing to adjust prices to account for a 50-cent increase to minimum wage coming next month.

"For a lot of restaurants that's a big jump," said Hynes. "We've got to figure out how much on the menu we're putting prices up to make a profit, so you plug in the numbers and there you go."

Hynes said the program has helped him cut food cost from around 40 per cent of his budget to 32 or 33 per cent.

"You can go right down to the slice of tomato, the hundredth of a cent," added McKay. "And if you change (the price of) a case of tomatoes, it trickles down to every dish with tomatoes in it."

McKay already has Vito's restaurants of Saint John on board as a partner. Now he's turning to Catalict, the information technology business accelerator based in Saint John, as he attempts to grow his business. He's looking to work some bugs out of the program, and has plans to add video tutorials on the website.

Jeff Roach, executive director of propelSJ, which oversees the Catalict program, said Menu Tools has potential to succeed on a global scale.

"I think they could go very far," he said. "Wayne's got incredible expertise and nobody else is doing what they're doing globally."

Roach said Catalict will provide support and expertise to help the company plan its future.


Trade Mission to Boston

Oct. 1, 2007

FREDERICTON (CNB) - A delegation of 62 companies and organizations from throughout Atlantic Canada will participate in an upcoming Team Canada Atlantic (TCA) trade mission to Boston, Massachusetts, scheduled from Nov. 4 - 8, 2007. This is the largest TCA trade mission since the program began in 1999.

"This will be my government's first time participating in a Team Canada Atlantic mission, and I am particularly pleased to see that we have a record number of New Brunswick companies and organizations participating," Premier Shawn Graham said. "The greater Boston area offers enormous opportunities for New Brunswick entrepreneurs, and is a market we will focus on as we develop our self-sufficiency agenda. Last year, our province exported about $1.2 billion to Massachusetts. This mission will build on that success, opening doors for companies in sectors such as agri-foods, construction, aerospace and defense, ICT, and biosciences."

"The Government of Canada is working with Atlantic Canadian exporters to increase their international export capabilities," said National Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). "The Team Canada Atlantic trade mission approach has proven to be a very effective way of showcasing Atlantic Canada's high-quality goods and services in the U.S. market, with previous trade missions resulting in export sales in excess of $41 million for Atlantic Canadian companies."

The TCA trade mission will also include an innovation element to provide universities, hospitals, research institutions, and non-profit organizations from Atlantic Canada with partnership and commercialization opportunities for their leading-edge technologies. Participants of this Technology Partnering Initiative will travel with the TCA delegation, meeting with potential partners and buyers to identify and maximize commercialization prospects in the greater Boston area. This is an important component of the trade mission, as Atlantic Canadian scientists and entrepreneurs are using innovation to help drive the economy of the region, while increasing trade and investment opportunities.

On the occasion of TCA's visit to Boston, the New England Canada Business Council will host a large public conference in Boston on Nov. 5 to highlight Atlantic Canada's innovative products, leading-edge technologies and skilled labour. The conference will give Minister MacKay, the Atlantic premiers and business leaders an opportunity to highlight Atlantic Canada's ability to innovate in such diverse areas as marine technologies, technologies for healthcare and education, life sciences and bridging labour shortages.

Mission participants include eight companies and organizations from Newfoundland and Labrador, 18 companies and organizations from New Brunswick, nine companies and organizations from Nova Scotia and 15 companies and organizations from Prince Edward Island. An additional 12 companies and organizations from throughout Atlantic Canada will participate in the Technology Partnering Initiative.

New England is a natural and historic trading partner for Atlantic Canada. Massachusetts offers significant opportunities for Atlantic Canadian companies in the areas of advanced manufacturing; agri-food and seafood; building and construction products; consumer products; information communications technology; life sciences; and ocean industries. It is a small but affluent market with an economy that is almost entirely service-based.

Team Canada Atlantic is a partnership of ACOA, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Industry Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and the four Atlantic Provinces. It is committed to strengthening the trade and investment relationship between Atlantic Canada and the United States.

Thirteen previous TCA trade missions - to the New England states, Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and Florida - have helped 490 Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to meet with 3,380 agents and business owners from across the United States, resulting in export sales in excess of $41 million..

Following is a list of New Brunswick companies participating in the mission:

  • Cube Automation Inc. (Tracadie-Sheila)
  • Horizon Prefinished Mouldings Inc. (Bathurst)
  • Les Fermes GAM Michaud Farms Inc. (Saint-André)
  • South Shore Trading Co. Ltd. (Port Elgin)
  • CE3 Custom Electronic Integrators (Dieppe)
  • Lexi-tech International (Dieppe)
  • Fancy Pokket Corporation (Moncton)
  • Menu Tools Inc. (Riverview)
  • LuminUltra Technologies Ltd. (Fredericton)
  • Professional Quality Assurance Ltd. (Fredericton)
  • Knowledge Park (Fredericton)
  • Think-Links Press (Durham Bridge)
  • Precision Metal Works Ltd. (Mactaquac)
  • Thomas Equipment 2004 Inc. (Centreville)
  • Easy Kleen Pressure Systems Ltd. (Sussex)
  • Claire Driscoll & Associates (Saint John)
  • Mariner Partners Inc. (Saint John)
  • Bourque Industrial Ltd. (Saint John)
Wayne E. McKay

Canadian Pizza Magazine Sept/Oct 2004

If only you could clone yourself enough times to fulfill your staffing needs. If you could, all of your staff would care about your business, your customers, your reputation, your product and your bottom line. They would keep a clean, organized and efficient workplace and would be willing and able to work long and hard for little pay, all while remaining loyal. To date however, no such cloning technology exists, (at least that I am aware of), and you must therefore choose and hire your staff from the available reservoir.

It is not surprising to anyone in the quick service and casual dining sector, that staff turnover rates average a staggering 250% annually. The cost of training and replacing staff can average from $780.00 per kitchen employee to $362.00 for a busser. Beyond the measurable costs related to staff turnover is the immeasurable impact on customer satisfaction, average check size, customer loyalty, as well as staff morale, which in turn increases staff turnover.

Finding quality employees is difficult and keeping them seems to be an even more daunting task. Let’s start with the negatives. "You’re leaving when?" is a statement, which usually follows a series of actions on your part. For example: meaningless raises of a few cents an hour, throwing people into jobs they are not trained or qualified to do, insincere or non-existent thank yous, failing to give feedback and regular performance reviews, tolerating a dirty or disorganized workplace, ignoring employee ideas and opinions, tolerating unacceptable behavior from staff members or answering questions with "because I’m the boss" or similar attitude.

In these foodservice venues the rate of pay that can reasonably be afforded is low, averaging slightly above minimum wage in most instances. Keeping your wages competitive and as high as possible is one good step that will assist you in saving money in costly retraining. More important however, is how you treat each employee long term. Today’s employees are not willing to work for free. Expecting your employees to work a 30-hour week for 20 hours pay "like we did in the good ol’ days" will only lead to disappointment. They are however, independent, good at change, comfortable with technology and creative.

They are looking for sincere appreciation, flexibility (life beyond work), a team or family environment, an opportunity to develop new skills or hone existing ones, as well as respect for their opinions and ideas. The positions you have hired them for are not rocket science and they know that. Managers need to lighten up and make this establishment "the place to work". Your competitors are paying a similar wage. There needs to be more than wages to motivate staff loyalty.

One of my tired but true sayings is "Managers lead, employees manage". In principal most operators know this but few invest the time and attention necessary to make sure this is carried through, both in the orientation process, and in daily business. Like a good marriage, employee relations require constant attention beyond management basics. The basics of management meaning the day to day activities involved in operations. When a restaurant manager or owner effectively "leads", the managing gets done. When the employees are managing they are invested in the company, which translates into higher employee retention. Restaurants with strong leaders average nearly half the employee turnover rates of similar operations with weak leaders.

So what is a good leader? Beyond providing a safe and clean workplace, flexibility in hours, competitive wages and effective orientation, a good leader gives the employee encouragement, a purpose for their work, a role model they can respect and learn from, opportunity to grow, and a sense of family.

Encouragement is key. Foodservice employees work hard for little pay and are often under-appreciated. It can often seem hard for you to find encouragement to give them but it’s all around in the smallest of actions. Thanking each employee on payday or with a note in the paychecks for small actions you have noticed goes a long way. Perhaps Mary helped you with a difficult customer or the dishwasher cleaned up a messy kitchen accident. Thank them for it and let them know you notice these things and appreciate them. Do it regularly and consistently.

Letting your employee know the value of his or her particular job and how it fits into the smooth and successful operation lets them know why they are needed to come in every day. Identifying staffs unique skills and utilizing them gives them a sense of purpose and pride. Perhaps your prep cook can create excellent signage because he loves to paint or your driver has an alphabetized CD collection which lets you know that he would be a good candidate for organizing your stock room. Know these things about your staff because you are interested in them and allow them to shine. When they shine you shine.

Leaders are effective role models teaching employees to be capable and independent in their duties. Trust, attitude and values cannot be taught however, but are learned from good leaders by their own actions. Managers cannot expect attitudes and values from their staff that they are not demonstrating themselves.

Your business will succeed with a quality product, quality service and efficient business practices. You cannot do it alone but with good staff that will stay around your business will prosper. Investing in your staffs attitude and making your establishment unique in its employee relations is as important as any thing you do. Effective orientation and leadership will pay big dividends in employee commitment and customer satisfaction.

Wayne E. McKay

CRFA Web site 2005

The first step is to recognize the difference between accounting and cost management software.

Accounting software is typically used to track all incoming and outgoing payments, to provide you with accurate and timely information about your business' financial situation. Cost analysis or management software is used to track all operational expenses, with the goal of cutting costs, reducing waste and improving profitability.

Be sure to choose an accountant who understands, sorts and reports your different revenue and cost categories in the same way as your management software. This will help you to get a fuller and more accurate picture of the true costs associated with your restaurant. Always remember that your accountant will report the financial results using accounting software, while you or your managers will keep an eye on costs using cost management tools.

When using cost management software, it is essential that all costs are carefully and accurately categorized. Too often, non-food items are included in the "food cost" category - a simple way to avoid this confusion is to remember, "if you can't eat it, it's not food cost." It's worth it to take the time up-front to ensure that all costs are accurately entered. This is the only way for you to manage and project future costs with confidence. The best way to track costs is also on an ongoing basis - don't wait until the end of the month to enter all of your data!

Here are a few things to consider when looking at different cost management software options:
Determine what type of reports you need, and how you would prefer to measure and document your costs and sales. These can be broken down into different categories, or you may want to use the same cost/revenue categories as used by your accountant.
It is also important to use a dependable point-of-sale (POS) system because it can provide "real time" financial data on your food and labour costs, giving you a month-to-date reporting of costs in an instant. Flash reports retrieved from a POS system will provide a good basis for understanding your ongoing costs, will help you to better predict your operation's profitability, and can also help to prevent serious financial losses. Some systems can even be monitored by your cost control management support person via an online E-global monitoring service.
Choose a point-of-sale system that offers cost analysis reporting capabilities - this is a quick and simple way to measure the cost and profit performance of your operation's menu. Make sure that the POS system is also backed by qualified data/menu inputting services.
Request references from the POS personnel assigned to your account. Seeking references is another due diligence activity that will protect you from hiring the wrong person to do the job. The person inputting your information must truly understand the art of food costing. If you are not sure what questions to ask or the answers to look for, consider consulting a food cost-systems specialist.
Make sure to get a clear picture of how much of a time commitment will be required each week to maintain the system for weekly and month-end reports.

Always remember that when it comes to data entry and analysis, the results are as simple as "garbage in, garbage out." Don't forget to "kitchen test" your recipe data, to be sure that the portions served on the line accurately match the true food costs...entered into the system. This is essential in order to produce dependable menu cost analysis reports.

About the Author:
Wayne McKay is an Executive Chef and Corporate Food & Beverage Cost Controller with a passionate interest in providing cost analysis tools and training for front-line staff. He is the founder of Bottom Line Menu ToolsTM - a foodservice cost analysis software and training company owned, a trademark owned and operated company of Hospitality Solutions of Riverview, N.B. Wayne can be reached at 506-387-4401, by fax at 506-386-5705 or by e-mail at

Menu Tools Inc.

September 2004

I was watching a program on television the other day comparing flying and medicine. It seems the two have much in common so far as risk, and appropriate protocol to diminish risk levels. Both the practice of medicine and piloting a plane, require educated rational thinking processes, coupled by the all-important checklists. I understand that all pilots before every flight go over a checklist which painstaking and perhaps seemingly redundantly, takes them through every switch, button, lever, indicator and gauge. A walk about the plane to inspect the body, tires, working and stagnant parts is also undertaken, every time, before each and every flight. I learned that this is just good sense and a pilot would not think of piloting a plane without knowing everything he could about that plane and it’s condition at the time of take off. Likewise a doctor, more specifically a surgeon and his team go through a series of checks, double checks and triple checks with the patient, the materials, tools, medications and the procedure to ensure that all goes as planned and the outcome has no surprises. The risks are there, but diminished as much as possible by knowing every single little thing possible. Diagnosis and courses of action are also made only with a series of back-up tests, x-rays, data etc and a doctor would never “wing it” with a patients life and his own career. All of these things are documented each time in both professions. These are things I learned, I probably already knew it but not in the detail or context with which it was presented.

In any business there are risks, mainly financial, but personal investments as well. We can only succeed applying the same, educated, rational thinking and checklists, and “winging it” is only gambling and irresponsible. A pilot would not fly an old plane with parts that worked sometimes or not at all. A surgeon would not perform surgery with outdated equipment and no x-rays and blood work results. A business should not operate without the proper working procedures and equipment to service its customers and itself. Ultimately, your foodservice business is about the sale. That’s what we are all working toward: a happy customer giving you money. Every single day you should be able to access the condition of your business, how it is working, who is achieving the sales, how many meals are we comping and why, what are our busy times, which items are selling at what times of day, are our customers able to pay easily. These are just a few of the things commonly known daily by successful restaurateurs. Like pilots and surgeons, they check, re-check and check again, diminishing risks, increasing success.

I respectfully submit to all foodservice operators that even with caring and learned managers and systems in place, without an efficient POS system your foodservice facility is “winging it”. It is a fact that for every $50.00 you have comped a frustrated customer takes $1,000.00 in gross sales to recover. Every $25.00 sale that is not showing payment and no one can explain why, takes another $500.00 in gross sales to recover. Without a working POS system you are open to honest errors, dishonest staff, frustrated customers, and no system of tracking and rectifying trouble spots.

A doctor knows it is impossible to diagnose and effectively provide a remedy without data, knowledge, proof and your business should not be handled any less diligently. You need the proper tools Investment in an updated POS system is a mandatory expense in order to succeed in today’s Foodservice Industry. The money invested will pay itself back in the elimination of lost sales, lost money and lost customers. It will assist you and your manager in diagnosing the problem areas and effectively treating them today before the patient gets too ill to help.

Wayne E.McKay

Canadian Pizza Magazine OCTOBER 2004

What is interesting to know about "pizza cheese" or creamy white mozzarella is that it was first used more for its colour than anything else. A famous pizza maker was preparing a special pizza for Queen Margherita in 1889 by Royal Summons when he used mozzarella cheese, red tomato and green basil in a salute to the colours of the Italian Flag. Prior to this any ol’ cheese was used or none at all, but this popular creation was the precursor to today’s North American pizza style.

What's also interesting to know is that authentic Mozzarella was originally made from the milk of water buffalo, an old world relative of the dairy cow. We use regular ol’ cow milk in the mozzarella used everyday in commercial pizzerias but even without its gourmet ingredient, mozzarella is an undisputed champion of cheeses in the pizza world with 30% of the total cheese output from U.S. dairies being this staple of pizza products.

What is imperative to know, as a pizza restaurateur, is the critical value of monitoring and auditing cheese consumption on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. What is also imperative to know is that cheese usage should represent only 9% of your gross sales. A $10,000.00 week in gross sales should be matched with $900.00 of cheese used. What is critically imperative for you to know is that unless your employees understand and respect this, you will not achieve this and you will suffer in the bottom line. Cheese makes or breaks a good pizza; cheese consumption makes or breaks a good pizzeria!

Get your staff involved in understanding cheese consumption and make reaching your goals matter to them. Try posting a “cheese usage chart” visibly in the prep area showing your target goal, month to date actual and year to date actual. Reward them when milestones are met. They will reward you with a more profitable bottom line.

Wayne E.McKay

Canadian Pizza Magazine

My wife complains a lot ……. in restaurants that is. She’s not particularly demanding but she does expect to receive at minimum exactly what she has ordered and is expected to pay for as well as at least congenial service. I complain mainly about one thing, “cold plates”. Cold plates are my little bug-a-boo and when I don’t get a hot plate, I tell someone. Our children often are embarrassed by us when we return items or cold plates but we, like most of your dining patrons, have expectations when we are paying for a meal and service. We explain to them that we are really doing the owners a favour but they don’t often see it that way, neither do many foodservice operators which is a costly mistake most critical to their bottom line.

Seeing complaints as an opportunity is smart business. Who needs to hire a secret shopper when the real shoppers are right there, paying you! The problem is fewer than 1 in twenty customers who have a complaint will let you know about it. These customers are more comfortable telling 8 to 10 of their friends and neighbors about it than they are telling you. Customers who are dissatisfied will tell twice as many people as those who are satisfied. The cost to your reputation and bottom line is shocking. While you are tinkering with food and labour costs in an effort to increase profit, much of your profit is silently walking out the door, undetected. The first step in winning back these profits is encouraging and even asking for complaints. Don’t just ask for compliments, ask for bad news too, it might hurt a little but it will save you money. Really! Your wait staff, managers, maitre d’ and cash personnel are all directly in touch with the customer. These are your “data miners” and with proper encouragement and support will seek out those complaints. Customer comment cards are a tried and true tool, and a more recent development is e-mail. If you have a web site make it easy for the customer to send comments.

As important as collecting the complaints, is dealing with them and fast! The nature of the complaint of course is a factor here but most complaints can be handled successfully on the spot. When handled at first contact, the cost of resolving a complaint in customer loyalty and tangible costs is reduced by more than half. The longer you take, the less likely that customer will return and the more likely he is to tell others. A successfully handled complaint can actually increase customer loyalty. Giving your staff authority and guidelines for dealing with complaints in your absence is also important. I have vocalized complaints and have been told that the manager will call me. Either they call me days later or not at all. I do not return to these establishments even if they have somehow resolved my complaint, and I am not alone in this.

Don’t give away the store but don’t be stingy either. Exceed the customers expectations by first determining what their expectations are. An overenthusiastic employee might comp the meals of the entire dining party when free desserts all around may have done the trick. On the other hand giving a customer a free salad when the entire entrée was a disaster doesn’t make the situation any better either.

Deal with the obvious, find out what the customer wants and exceed their expectations!

There will always be the customer who just likes to complain for the sake of complaining. You can stand on your head and flip pizzas while singing a Broadway show-tune, and they will not be impressed. As aggravating as these people are and even if you know they are looking for bravado and/or something for nothing, you must deal with them as if they have a legitimate complaint and resolve it quickly. Others are watching. It may cost you a little, but others will recognize your maturity and business pride. You are not after this customers loyalty but the loyalty of all who witness and those he tells. Successfully done this will actually earn you money.

Documenting all complaints with as much information as possible has compound value. First, when dealing with a particularly irate customer, writing down information lets them know you are taking them seriously and tends to calm them down. For simple complaints, if prudent, a name and phone number is a good idea so a personable follow up can be made. At the very least however, and most importantly, a discreet log of complaints including dates and the nature of them is a valuable tool in identifying trends and dealing with the internal sources. Documenting is too often overlooked and never complete if the documentation is used for punishing employees instead of as a tool and opportunity for problem solving.

When you ask for the complaints, deal with them quickly and well and document them, you will see complaints decrease and your bottom line increase. Complaints are the bonus checks that often go un-cashed. Find them and take them to the bank!