3 Things Holding Your Restaurant Back

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

Great restaurants are rare. That’s not meant to be mean, just the truth. Many live alongside a road named Average. The thing to remember is the road of Average leads to a town called Mediocrity. Nothing ever happens there, because the residents are too complacent to change.

To get out of where you are, you need to shake things up! Whether your restaurant is struggling and you want to get out of survival mode into thriving, or your restaurant is doing well and you fell like it would probably be better, it’s the classic mode for motivation: you need to be either in desperation or inspiration.

So, what separates the great from the average? Here are three key items to put on the front burner and think about:

Systems

Restaurants are 80 percent psychological and 20 percent systems. That being said, you would be shocked to know that most restaurants don't have a really good grasp on systems and how to use them — and here is the key — effectively. Sure, most have the basic checklist and forms they hang up for the staff. Owners and managers tell their team to fill out the checklists or else. Or else what?

Let’s talk about carrots and sticks.

In our mythical town called Mediocrity, there is a restaurant called Average. The restaurant has had the same menu for years and has never raised their prices because they’re scared the locals will not come back. The manager uses management techniques from the late 1940s after World War II to increase productivity in laborers. Basically, if you did well, you were rewarded (the carrot). If not, you got reprimanded (the stick). It’s an outdated management theory that especially does not work with the up-and-coming Millennial generation.

Our manager at the Average Restaurant will have to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. One is push and the other is pull. You really cannot “motivate” your team. All motivation is self-motivation. Remember this: people only do things for their own reasons, not yours.

So, how do you get your team to really use the checklists? You need to talk to them and allow them to discover their own “why.” It’s only through communication with our team can we truly undercover what is important to them, what drives them, what “motivates” them. How do you motivate the unmotivated? You can’t. It’s a waste of your time. What can you do? Try these tips:

  • Forget trying to motivate (push). Instead try to inspire and lead by example (pull).
  • Allow your team to make small mistakes. Mistakes are part of the growth process.
  • Always make time for training, coaching, and developing your team. School is never out for the professional.
  • Connect with them through conversation. That old saying of “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care” is true.

Adaptability

Another critical key is you have to be able to adapt to market changes and implement. Implement means you have to do something. Talk truly is cheap when it comes to those who say “they know.” It’s rare to find people who actually do something about it. There are clever quotes floating around the internet that chime: “Knowledge is power!” The truth is that only applied knowledge is real power. The other is just potential.

When was the last time you updated your menu and pricing? Had a training class for your team? Jumped into a new social media platform like Periscope or did a video stream on Facebook Live? When was the last time you went out and had dinner at a restaurant you admire? Got online to research trends? How about read a book on leadership?

Would you agree that your team has a big impact on the guest experience? Of course. Would you agree that your managers have a big impact on your team? Oh, yes! Then, who has impact on you and your management team? Hmm.

Focus

There are a lot of details that need to be managed to run a profitable restaurant. Focus is probably the number one thing holding your restaurant back. You see, you’re probably focused on the wrong things. The Pareto Principle, or the 80:20 Rule, is a theory you should understand and apply.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who discovered a natural law of distribution that can be applied to a variety of things in the restaurant industry:

  • Eighty percent of your sales is generated by 20 percent of your menu.
  • Twenty percent of your service team generates 80 percent of the sales.
  • Twenty percent of your customers account for 80 percent of your complaints.

Remember the formula for restaurant success earlier? Restaurant are 80 percent psychological and 20 percent systems. See, the Pareto Principle is everywhere!

The biggest impact it can have on you and your business is when you apply it to time management. Most likely you’re spending 80 percent of your day doing tasks that only give you 20 percent return. It’s human nature to want to appear busy.

“I’m so busy!” is the battle cry of today’s restaurant owner and manager. So, what are you really busy about?

Doing a time audit is an eye-opening reality check when we dig down and see where and how we spend our most precious resource: time. Take the challenge and write down everything you do during the day for one week. Now, be honest with yourself and you’ll get to the truth. This is not an exercise to validate your belief that you are too busy. If you do this with the intent of uncovering where your time goes, you find the truth will set you free. (However, it might piss you off first.)

Where focus goes, energy flows.

Run around your restaurant focused on problems and you get more problems. Focus on solutions, you’ll see that more solutions open up. Lose sight of your long-term goals and your focus will be consumed by the minutia of the day. With the lure of our smartphones constantly calling out to us for our attention with text messages, social media notifications, and emails, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of distraction. Then, before you know it, the day is over and you did not feel like you accomplished anything significant.

Here is a tip: Commit to three.

Commit to three tasks that would move you closer to your long term goal. Three is an easy goal. Three can be done consistently. Now some might say, “Well, if three is good, then six is better.” Not so fast, young Jedi. If you’re like most, you overestimate what you really can get done in a day and will play to your ego and over commit. Then this exercise becomes more like a “to-do” list, and honestly, those are about as reliable as airline departures and arrivals.

If you have a classic to-do list, take a look at it right now. Most of us have at least one item or task that just keeps getting moved to tomorrow. Don’t worry, it’s just being human. It’s in our flaws that we can find the truth.

Do you use technology or does it use you?

We have so many different apps, online programs, and gadgets out there, that we easily are seduced to the next big or new thing. How many apps do you have on your smartphone that you use more than 80 percent of the time? According to Pareto, it would be only 20 percent. The rest just take up space and memory on your phone.

Streamline your resources.

There are quite a few options out there for tools that allow you to manage your business smarter. Here’s the secret: Pick the one you like and use it! HotSchedules has a great online restaurant management platform to help you run your business better. Look at a POS system like Toast that has all-in-one software built into their program to allow you to focus more on the things that matter in your business.

You can have all the fancy software and online systems there are, however, if you do not use them, then they are a waste of your time, your team’s time, and your money. Sometimes less is more.

You see, the only thing really holding most restaurants back is the mindset of the owner or managers. The good news is that you can change that…if you want to.