6 Things You Need to Stop Doing in Your Restaurant

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

The restaurant industry can, at times, be like a boat in the middle of the ocean. You're in clear, calm waters with blue skies, and then 30 minutes later the ocean turns and your boat is being tossed about by 30-foot waves and gale force winds. In the restaurant industry, some people call that the dinner rush. While there are a multitude of minute details that contribute to a successful restaurant, there are things a lot of restaurant owners need to stop doing as well. Let’s look at six of them.

1. Playing the martyr

Woe is me! I work all the time! I'm so busy!

STOP IT! Hey, you're busy, I'm busy, we’re all busy. Human beings tend to be busy. As your restaurant and career swings into high gear, you're going to get busier. You can work hard or you can work smart, the choice is yours.

Who you let on your team is probably one of the most important decisions you make as a restaurant owner or operator. The key to working smarter is to surround yourself with great employees. How do you attract top talent? By creating a culture of excellence. 

Remember: culture flows down, not up, and culture always starts with you.

You need to make sure you are at 100% when you go through the restaurant door. In Neuro Linguistic Programming, they teach exercises that help practitioners manage their state. In technical terms, “state” is the internal representation of the mind and the physiology of the body to form a state of consciousness. In simple terms, it's the mindset and energy you bring into a room, meeting, relationship, conversation or your day-to-day activities at the restaurant. The very best and brightest in our industry are always aware of their state, and they manage it to bring out the best in their employees.

2. Putting up with poor performance

Many people will say that General Electric was at its peak under the direction of Jack Welch. He implemented a program called 20-70-10. The program divided employees into three distinct segments: the top 20% performers, the middle 70%, and the bottom 10%. Under Welch's command, the bottom 10% were fired. That might sound harsh, but when you think about the wasted productivity and negative energy that the bottom 10% bring to your company, it's actually a smart move.

Poor performers are costing you more than you probably realize. They tend to make more mistakes — and mistakes cost you money. They also tend to deliver substandard service and all you have to do is read a couple bad reviews on Yelp! to understand those consequences. If you have a poor performer on your team, just remember: You either change your people or you CHANGE people.” Poor performers set the standard for the number one sin in any restaurant: mediocrity. And for the record, mediocre restaurants don't survive.

3. Keeping "dogs" on your menu

When we talk about menu analysis, we get into four different categories of menu stratification to help you understand more of what your customer is buying and how that affects your profitability.

Generally, items are characterized as followed:

Stars: very profitable and very popular items
Workhorses: very popular items with a lower profit margin
Challenges: items with a high profit margin that aren't necessarily popular
Dogs: items low on profit and low on popularity

Menu items classified as dogs need to come off. If you are keeping an item on your menu that does not sell well and is not making you money, you are letting your ego get in the way and you need to STOP IT!

4. Ignoring modern restaurant marketing

If you’re not online, you’re offline. Generation Y, also known as Millennials, have grown up with and embraced the Internet. There is approximately 80 million of them out in the market. Research has shown that 93% of them use a mobile phone. 84% are on an average of 2.5 social media networks. So if you think having a website and a Facebook page is marketing effectively, you might need to think again.

More than 50% of Millennials make restaurant dining decisions through social media. The real trick is making sure that you are marketing across a broad spectrum of social media channels. Think of social media networks like TV channels. Some people like ABC, some like NBC, and some like Fox. Your restaurant needs to be on what is known as The Four Horsemen of Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Also, if you haven't heard, Google is going to start penalizing websites that are not mobile optimized, meaning your restaurant website needs to be designed specifically for a smartphone or a tablet, not a desktop computer or laptop. A mobile-optimized website does not require that someone pinch and zoom to read text. This mobile-friendly format makes it much easier to navigate and improves the customer experience. Face it, the Internet and social media is a part of our society that you need to embrace or risk alienating certain segments of your demographic.

5. Not knowing your numbers

If the number one sin in the restaurant is mediocrity, then the number two would be not knowing your numbers. You’d be shocked at the number of operators who have no clue as to what it costs to put out every plate on their menu. Do you think Apple does not know the cost down to the penny of what it takes to manufacture an iPhone? Of course they know.

Restaurant operating systems, marketing calendars, budgets and P&L's are the tools that successful restaurant owners and operators use every day to manage and get the most out of their restaurants. Only a fool would neglect knowing the numbers.

6. Not embracing change

There’s a great saying, “Change is mandatory, growth is optional.” One thing that you can take to the bank is that change is coming to the restaurant industry. Concepts like Chipotle and Shake Shack are shaking up the industry. Industry icons like McDonald's are struggling. Markets are fickle and restaurant trends come and go quickly. Smart operators spend time reading and researching. The information is out there.

You can embrace change and welcome it into your restaurant like your friend. Or you can shut the door and ignore it. Ego, pride and denial have closed down more restaurants than a bad economy. Sometimes the best medicine is when you look yourself in the mirror and say these two words: “STOP IT!”