New Year’s Resolutions for Your Restaurant: Goals to Help You Improve Even During ‘Quiet Months'

By Doug Radkey, Foodable Industry Expert

Another year has passed us by. It’s time to reflect and make even greater improvements. Whether you believe in developing resolutions or not, your mindset for the upcoming year needs to be about “doing.”

The restaurant industry is known to have its more quiet moments during the first 1-2 months of the calendar year, so this is the perfect time to plan your to-do list and set SMART goals. Let’s get started!

Team Meeting No. 1

A yearly review is not just about looking at the financial statements of the past year. Hold a team meeting and truly listen to your staff. Engage in a positive, organized conversation. What did they enjoy and maybe not enjoy about the past year? What did each department (front of house and back of house) learn? What challenges did they face? What strengths do you as an owner, operator, or manager possess moving forward in the New Year in terms of personnel and what areas need to be addressed?

Business Evaluation

Now is the time to review financials. Did you set budgets and goals last year for your venue (let’s hope you did, if not, get into the habit now)? Did you achieve your financial goals? If not, what threats (challenges) did you face that prevented you from delivering a positive result? Look at your food and beverage costs, gross margins, sales mix analysis, labor costs, inventory management, waste reports, RevPASH analysis, reservations, and other aspects of your business.

You also want to evaluate your restaurant from the point of view of the customer. What reviews did you receive, both offline and online? What types of experiences are your guests having and sharing within your community? Take notes and look for both positive and negative trends.

Explore Your Surroundings

What opportunities may present themselves during the upcoming year for you, your team, and your venue? What events are happening within not only your community but also regionally and nationally?

You want to take this time and review your competitive landscape. Which restaurants closed in the past year within your city and within your hyper-local area? Which restaurants are suddenly doing well or are preparing to open? Which weaknesses of theirs could you capitalize on?

Use this quiet time to walk around your establishment. What needs to be fixed, painted, or touched up, both inside and outside? Does anything need to be updated or upgraded? Look at your kitchen and bar equipment, as well as washrooms, tables, and chairs.

How much did you spend on repairs last year? Is it time to reinvest back into the business?

Develop SMART Plans

Using all of this collected data, begin to develop SMART plans for the upcoming year. If you’re unsure of what this might mean, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

In order for goals to translate into motivation and improved operational performance, goals must be specific. Goals must also be measurable to be able to provide progressive feedback and to know when the goal is actually achieved.

A goal must also be attainable by an individual or team member, or properly delegated throughout the organization or by third parties. The goal must be challenging yet realistic. By setting goals unrealistically high, you will not see an increase in motivation or performance in yourself or your team.

In order for goals to positively affect motivation and performance, goals must also be time-related. However, a timeline of tomorrow may make achieving the goal unrealistic. Similarly, within three years may be a timeline so far into the future that it lacks urgency and motivation.

All of your financial budgets, marketing plans, and personal development reviews must meet this SMART acronym to be successful.

Example: “Reduce food costs by 1 percent over the next 60 days by implementing new inventory program, re-training staff on portion control, and meeting with vendors while reviewing our sales mix analysis every 10 days.”

List as many as you believe you and your team can realistically accomplish and ones that you believe, based on the data collected, are the most critical to the restaurant and its success.

List all of your available resources to make goals attainable and try to keep the goals in bite-sized breakdowns, easy for your staff to understand and remember. You also want to recognize the potential for any possible challenges for each set goal so you and your team are prepared.

Team Meeting No. 2

Take these SMART goals and plans and discuss them with your entire team during a second (very important) team meeting. Agree to a timeline for each goal by signing it with your own signatures. Own your goals and include your entire team in the process.

Have meetings with your team on a scheduled, regular basis regarding performance and progress. Provide and receive ongoing feedback and align a reward system with desirable results.

It’s no secret — personal resolutions often fall apart. That’s why gym memberships soar in January, but facilities are empty come March. If you work as a cohesive unit, you can hold each other accountable to deliver the results you want this year, creating a successful benchmark for your restaurant!