Building a strong foundation is one of the most important things about creating your restaurant empire. It may seem obvious that you must have a foundation before you can build a house but too many restaurant owners will attempt to build their restaurant without one.
Think back to when you were a little kid. Before you were able to read, you had to learn your ABC’s. Learning the ABC’s was your foundation to learning how to read. There’s absolutely no way that you could have learned to read without learning your ABC’s, so why would you attempt to create a successful restaurant without a solid foundation in place?
Whenever I go speak to restaurant associations or go into a restaurant for training, there is one guideline that I have for any restaurant. This guideline is the start of the foundation that will permeate throughout every aspect of your restaurant and is one of the most vital in this competitive industry: always be caring.
This is something that I learned early on in my career. Growing up, my mother always taught me that I should care about everything that I do. I should take pride in what I do and take pride in the value that I bring to others. She didn’t necessarily mean it from a business standpoint, but instead more on a human level.
She taught me the value of caring about people and how I can impact them by just being me. My smile and warmth that I took in my personal life and brought into the restaurant industry with me is what caused me to be successful in every aspect of the field.
In the sales field, they tell you that you should always be closing a deal. However, they don’t tell you that you need to close these deals on a human level and the only way to do that is to care about the person you are talking to.
Other restaurant owners may disagree but I wholeheartedly believe that in order to go from being an average restaurant to becoming an exceptional restaurant that draws people to you, is to show how much that you care. The thing is, it doesn’t just start with the customers. Here are 4 areas of focus in your business that will take you from mediocre to exceptional - as long as you put in the work.
Care For Your Employees
In order to create an environment where your employees are taking care of your customers, you need to show your team how much you care about them.
Now, the first thing that’s going to jump to your mind is that I’m going to talk about their pay. Of course, you want to be able to pay them a competitive wage so they want to stick around. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you can get paid more at the restaurant across the street. But I’m not going to focus on the pay because you will ultimately do what you need to do in that aspect.
What I’m talking about goes deeper than the pay.
The issue is, most restaurant owners will work their staff to complete exhaustion and then get upset when they call out for a sick or personal day. It’s important to remember your team isn’t made of robots and in order to get the highest level of productivity, they must also feel like they have a life outside of your restaurant.
Your staff must know that you care about their well-being and their sanity. And they must know that you understand when life happens. Why? Because we are all human and we all need to understand each other. Let them in on the operations. Let them in on what the current state of everything is (up to a point).
Just show them that you are listening and paying attention. Once you gain that respect, they’ll go to battle for you and work harder for you than when you make them work 24/7 and it never feels like they ever leave the restaurant.
Care For Your Customers
Once you take care of your employees, your employees are going to take care of your customers. Your customers are the ones who allow you to stay in business so when you treat your employees right, they’ll treat your customers right.
Again, I’m not talking about the service. The service should be extraordinary every time but that’s just an expectation, especially in 2017. But it’s important that the customer knows that no matter how busy the restaurant may seem, their needs are still the most important. There’s definitely an art form to creating an atmosphere where every guest feels catered to as though they are the only ones in the restaurant.
It starts with eye contact. When the servers and managers provide eye contact to the guest, it shows that your team is paying attention to them. When they ask where their food is, let them know you’ll find out immediately and then follow through.
When a customer is upset, don’t deny their allegations. Meet them with compassion, empathy, and understanding. Correct the issue. Even when they are wrong (because customer’s are not always right), have a conversation with them. Show them that you care enough to have that conversation instead of just brushing it off. Nothing makes a guest angrier than having anyone that works for the restaurant to just brush off their concerns.
Your customers are spending their hard earned money in your restaurant. Make sure they know how amazing that is and how grateful you are that they chose you instead of them.
Care For Your Community
Your community must know that you care about them as a whole. There’s nothing that will kill a restaurant quicker than going into a community and wanting to change everything about what makes it. That’s not going to fly.
In order to get the community to support you, you must support the community. When you first open up, are you running around and getting to know the other local businesses owners and their employees? Are you taking the time to find out what’s important to the community? Are you listening to the customers that are coming into your restaurant?
In order to gain the respect of the community you must be one of them. Their concerns are your concerns and it’s important that they have a place they feel is protective of them.
People are creatures of habit. They tend to order the same meals over and over again because it’s safe. They go to places where they know people. People enjoy a routine. Whether it’s a yearly routine, a monthly routine, a weekly routine, or a daily routine. Your staff should take the time (and yourself included) to know the names of the people, their kids, and their animals. They should know due dates and anniversaries.
Why is this so important? Because it shows that you care about them and the community. Get involved in your community and prove that you are willing to work for their support.
Care About Yourself
Last but definitely not least, you must care about yourself. Most restaurant owners open the restaurant and work themselves to the bone because they took the risk. You as the owner are financially responsible for everyone within your restaurant. But that means that you put yourself into a leadership position.
The biggest trait of a successful leader is that they focus on their own well-being.
You must create boundaries with your restaurant, your employees, and understand that you are the most valuable asset to your restaurant. When you don’t feel good and you have to go into the restaurant, that mentality or attitude will affect your team. I know you understand this but it’s important that you put it into practice.
But it’s not just caring about your well-being. You must care enough to prove to everyone listed above that your restaurant is valuable. Because no one is going to work harder than yourself to ensure your restaurant is successful. Restaurants crumble because the owners stop caring.
What’s the common denominator on Bar Rescue or other restaurant takeover shows? The owners simply stopped caring enough to make it work or they stopped taking care of themselves which caused the team around them not to care.
At the end of the day, you must wake up to prove to everyone that you care. Prove to everyone that you care and watch how this foundation will make your operations and sales stronger.