The Combination to Restaurant Success

If there was a three-number combination lock sitting in front of you and you did not know any of the numbers, how confident would you be that you could open the lock? Granted, the possible combinations is easily over one thousand. How do you feel about being able to open it?

Most would say not very confident not knowing any of the numbers. Even if you had just one number, it still would take a lot of work and patience to finally crack the code. That is a lot of how most restaurants operate. They have one piece of the code and they struggle each day to try and open the lock to success.

So, for the first time (this month...), I am going to give you the code to restaurant success! Are you interested? I’ll give you a second to get a notebook out.

Restaurant success is a triad of three elements. Many have one or two of these working well, however without all three working in synergy, your restaurant will never reach the peak of performance. It’s like placing a governor set at 75 mph in a race car that has the potential of going 200 mph. As long as that governor is on the engine it will never reach its top speed.

The keys to restaurant success can be broken down into three elements: People, Product, and Process. Let’s break each down.

People

Think of this as the foundation of a house. How stable would your house be with a poor foundation? Would you allow your family to live in a house with a bad foundation? Of course not. Yet, everyday restaurants open without having set up the most critical element of their brand, the foundation. The cement that holds your foundation solid is your core values and your mission. These elements are what keep you and your brand held together when the market goes up and down. When economic conditions shift. Your values and your mission must be securely a part of your foundation before you start to build on top of it.

Once the core value cement has been set it is now time to gather the right people to your team. How do you attract the right people? By using those core values as a guide. People that do not align with your brand core values are just not a good fit for your restaurant.

Another valuable tool is you explore behavioral assessments like ProScan®️, DiSC®️, and the Predictive Index®️. Each measures the four cornerstone behavioral strengths that we all have (just in different combinations): Dominance, Extroversion, Patience, and Formality. Certain behavioral types work well together and are needed for harmony. Some are drivers that push for results. Some get energy from people. Others prefer spreadsheets and data. You need some of each to build a balanced team. Think of it as a tire on a car. You need all four wheels balanced or you are not going to get peak performance from the vehicle.

Product

For most this is the first key they focus on and that is a major mistake. Yes, your menu and what you sell is important. However, when you place it before people, you end up with a menu that cannot be executed consistently. Product is the low hanging fruit and it’s easy because most think that is what makes a restaurant. A restaurant is more than the menu. It’s a complex blend of service, ambiance, culture, beverages, and food. To isolate a restaurant to just it’s menu is like trying to play piano with just two fingers. Yeah, you can do it, it just sounds like shit!

The other thing to consider when discussing product is the elements that support it like those mentioned above: the style of service, ambiance, energy, brand identity, and the thousand other details that create a unique value proposition (UVP.) If you don’t stand out in a crowded market you will just blend in. The trick is not to stand too far out that your potential guests can’t relate to your brand. It’s far easier to be on the edge and disrupt the market. Then to be way out all alone trying to create a market. Many failing concepts learned this lesson the hard way.

Process

The last of the keys is the least glamorous of them and it secures and stabilizes the first two. Without systems in place that can be followed and implemented by the team, it’s going to be a hard journey. Peter Drucker the famous business consultant once said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” He’s right. Systems by themselves are worthless without three components: key metrics, strategy, and accountability.

Most restaurants have clipboards that sit idle on the wall and rarely get used. Why? Because they were not designed with expectations or used properly. A lazy manager decided to download a template from the internet, printed it out, put in on a clipboard and told the team to do it. You must always clarify your expectations when rolling out a new system to the team. What it is, how to use it, and why it matters. That last one might be the most important. Without a reason why the team will never buy into using it to its proper use. Sure, they’ll go down the list and check it off. When the leadership team doesn’t check their work and give them feedback, they just brush it off as not that important. You must always inspect what you expect. That is how you hold the team accountable to the brand standards.

Systems also are not valuable if you do not have a strategy for them. So, you have a yearly budget. What are you doing with it? Are you breaking it down into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily key metrics that are constantly monitored? Do you have a plan for when things get off track (and they will)? What is your recruiting strategy? Just throw up a help wanted as when someone gives notice? That’s not a recruiting strategy, that’s a Hail Mary! Do you have a market calendar and a plan? Or are you just posting a couple of times a week thinking you’re making an impact on social media?

Finally, accountability is the crucible that becomes the Achilles heel for most. Everyone wants to be the leader until it’s time to step up and do what real leaders do...they take accountability for everything that happens inside their life and restaurant. Don’t think for one second that you can be one way at work with accountability and another way in your personal life. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that for true leaders. Accountability in your personal life will impact your professional life.

When you don’t have a clear, concise, and actionable strategy in front of your processes (with accountability thrown in there,) you’re playing to survive and not to thrive. If survival is your goal, then, by all means, keep doing that. If you want to break free from the roller coaster profit and loss experience that most have, then time to put the right pieces in the right order.

Here’s the formula for restaurant success:

Pe + CV = C * Pr + Br + E = UVP * Pro + KM + St/Ac = Sc

People plus core values equals culture, times product plus brand identity plus energy equals unique value proposition times processes plus key metrics plus strategy divided by accountability equals success.

Now you have the combination to restaurant success. The next question is what are you going to do with it? It’s your move.

Is Your Restaurant Losing the War for Talent? Here’s Why!

Now hiring. Looking for line cooks. And servers. And dishwashers too. Apply now.

Does this look familiar? Ads like these blanket the market every single day on the internet as restaurants embark on an inner war. The war for talent.

This struggle may not be as horrific as real warfare on the battlefield in a foreign country, but this battle is closer to you and the impact can be crushing to a business. You are fighting a war that you can’t win playing by traditional rules. If you want to win, you are going to need to attack this problem where the competition can’t touch you...inside your culture.

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You’re Hiring for Skill Over Personality

When you get desperate to fill a position, you take short cuts and you compromise your standards. Don’t feel bad about it, because we all have done it as inexperienced leaders. The logical move would be to look for someone with experience. You need a line cook so you filter through the application and find someone who has experience. You interview them and they say all the right things, so you hire them. They start and it all goes to hell on the line.

Why?

Because you didn’t see the big emotional baggage they brought in with them. Sure, no one breaks out their emotional baggage on day one. They wait until they get settled in and then they unpack all that drama and bad habits. By then the damage is already set into motion. You could fire them, yet the thought of confrontation or placing a new help wanted ad up just makes you not say anything.

This is commonly known as silent approval and it is a silent culture killer as well. By not saying anything you have given the “silent approval” that below par standards are now the new standard. When this happens it’s like the crew has mutinied and now runs the ship. Good luck trying to get it back into your control.

Your Culture Sucks

You will always lose the war for talent if your culture is not A level. Culture is the deciding factor when it comes to winning the war for the best talent in your market. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but if you’re not getting A talent coming in to apply to join your team then you have a C level culture. They don’t find your culture attractive.

How can you fix that? Make sure your cores values known. Most restaurants do not understand the intense power that solid core values offer for recruiting and attracting top talent. People are drawn to people who are like themselves. If your culture core values are all about parties and having a good time, then look around and you’ll see your team is a reflection of that.

Culture problems are not easy to fix, that’s not saying you shouldn’t try. At its essence, culture is a living thing that is co-created by the leader/owner and their leadership team. It does take a team effort to bend and shape culture. Many try to take this challenge on alone and it’s a losing battle. You need team synergy to craft an A level culture.

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You Don’t Train Enough

Would you go to the gym for a week to get in the shape of your life and suddenly declare, “Well, that’s it! I’m in shape now, no need to go back.” Of course not. Then why do most restaurant treat their training program with that same attitude? They train their most precious resource (their team) a few days when they first start and expect them to maintain that level.

Physical conditioning dissipates over time without constant and never-ending training. You must continue to push yourself to the point where your body is placed under a little stress in order for it to repair and grow. Go to the gym and do the same routine with the same intensity and you’ll plateau fast! How’s your training program at your restaurant? Has your team become complacent? Have they plateaued? If your sales and reviews have flatlined chances are you have a training program that needs a swift kick in the ass!

Training is one area that you have total control over. You don’t control the weather, the economy, or other people (even if you think you can). What you can and do control is your actions that take place within the four walls of your restaurant. Anything inside is your world. You own it. You just need to start acting like it.

You want to make a pact with yourself and your team that from this day forward, you will not be out trained by another restaurant in your market!

It’s time to stand up and stand out as a brand that invests in developing their people. You hear it quite often in articles that quote restaurant owners who love to say, “our people are our most valuable asset”. They say the words and yet their actions fall way short of the goal. You can change that by changing your mindset and attitude about training.

You’re Not Appreciative

You can call them millennials, Gen Z, or even "snowflakes." Labels are the worst way to get people to come together and we use them all the time in our own restaurants to divide the team instead of pulling them together. How about the classic Front-of-House (FOH) and Back-of-House (BOH.) We create dissension in our own brand by casting people into labels.

The problem with labels is that they carry a preconceived notion behind them. How many of these sayings have you heard (or even may have said yourself)?

“Kids today don’t want to work.”

“I can’t find good help, so I just do it myself!”

“They just don’t care.”

Here’s the truth: seek and you shall find. Whether or not you are aware of this, you are always putting out one of three types of energy. Positive, neutral, or negative.

Negative energy is just that...is an energy vacuum that sucks the life out of whatever it comes in contact with.

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Neutral energy is like a flat line on an EKG. Others might describe it as meh. When you are in neutral energy you are just being nothing.

Positive energy is the stuff that legendary brands are made of. These leaders are like human sparklers when they walk into a room. They command a great presence and people are drawn to them like the moth to the flame. You can’t help it, they are powerful at attracting others to their cause.

If your energy is 80% in the positive range, then you’re doing great. If you hover between negative and neutral, then you have a little soul searching to explore.

How can you correct the course on this one? Be a little humble and be a lot more grateful. Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions you can tap into. Here’s the other part of that...you can always find something to be grateful for. Is it always easy? Hell no. Will you feel better living with a little more gratitude in your heart? Hell yeah!

Start by offering up a couple of words that perhaps your team is not used to you saying and that is “thank you”. Try it out. If you can, look in a mirror and tell that person staring back at you, “thank you.” Okay, it might feel a little weird to be talking to yourself in a mirror, but hey we’re talking about doing those things that average people won’t do! That’s how you become outstanding. You challenge yourself to do things that are just outside your comfort zone.

Making the changes required to win the war for talent all starts on the battlefield between your ears. Yes, you are your biggest problem and you are also your best solution. There is not a war for talent out there, there is a war with talent that we created within ourselves by the negative self-defeating talk that flies around in that brain of yours. Change your thoughts and you change your restaurant. It may not happen overnight, however, it’s a great start!

Want more tips from Donald Burns on how to create a better restaurant? Check out the recent episode of The Barron Report below where Burns breaks down some of the psychological principles that get in your way from building the restaurant and life you truly desire.

If These 5 Things are in Place You MIGHT Have a Restaurant Business

You have a location. You have a menu. You open the doors and guests are coming in and eating at your establishment.

But do you have a business? Don’t answer so fast. There are certain things that must be in place to have a real business.

Not to burst your bubble, but without these 5 things, you actually have more of what would be classified as a hobby. An expensive hobby.

The restaurant industry has a horrendous reputation for being tough and with especially high failure statistics. Perhaps the reason is due to the fact that most don’t run their restaurant like a business? Restaurant success is not a game of luck. It is a business and there are rules that those that find long term success follow.

The good news for you? You just need to follow the rules.

Now, some might cringe at the ideas of following “the rules.” You started your own restaurant because you didn’t want to follow the rules. Rules allow you to instill some discipline in your business. You need discipline to reach high levels of success. You can’t get there without it.

Know Your Numbers

Least we forget that the restaurant business is a business. For that, you must know your financial numbers. This is not a luxury, it is a necessity! There is a fiduciary duty you have as an owner or a leader in a restaurant to protect the brand assets. Those assets are the bottom line. There is an overflow of creative culinary talent in the market, I would wager that only 10% know how to make money with that talent.

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How many top chefs have you heard of lately either going bankrupt or being kicked out of their own company for malicious behavior? And those are the ones that make the headlines. There are countless more that just slowly fade away without being noticed.

Economic responsibility starts and ends with the small business owner in a local community. You make money and spend money within your community. When that cycle breaks down, towns become vacant and are left as remnants of once prosperous so-called boom towns that became ghost towns (think Tombstone, Arizona; Calico, California; Rhyolite, Nevada).

So where to start? How about knowing the exact cost of every item on your menu? You might be shocked that this is a major area that most restaurant operators fail to implement. If you don’t like numbers or you don’t know how to calculate this, then hire someone! You can’t go any longer without getting on top of your numbers. Stop saying you “should” and start saying you “must”.

Know Your Market

If you are going into a market it is far better to disrupt the status quo than to create it. Starbucks didn’t invent the coffee market, they disrupted how we thought about coffee by transforming it from diners to its own cozy shop people would want to spend time at. Chipotle did not invent the burrito, they disrupted the way we order a burrito with the customization model. Chick-fil-A did not invent the chicken sandwich, they disrupted the service associated with getting a chicken sandwich!

Are you trying to create a market or are you disrupting your market? This is where so many go astray. They look at the market and think that Ethiopian BBQ Sushi would be great! There is nothing else like that currently in their area...and there might be a very good reason why.

Creating a market takes a lot of money, marketing, and a brilliant brand positioning strategy to make it work. While you might have one or even two of those three things, you’re going to need all three to make it work. Many a restaurant has gone under thinking that they were going to change the restaurant world with an unproven business model.

Know Your Team

When you look around at your team, what do you see? Friends? Family? Co-workers? Strangers? Professionals? The way you answer that says a lot about you as a leader and is a reflection of your culture.

One thing that the restaurant industry is lacking is real leadership. We have plenty of managers, but a few leaders. My definition is fairly straightforward: a manager manages the shift, while a leader, leads the vision. Managers tend to have a style that can best be described as a firefighter. You’ve surely seen these managers in action. They rush around all day busy putting out fires (problems). In fact, they pride themselves on the number of fires they can put out each shift. The firefighter manager lives to be a problem solver.

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The leader has a totally opposite mindset. Their drive is to empower their team to be solution seekers. When the fire (problem) pops up at the restaurant, they ask the team for solutions. They also talk to their team to understand them on a deeper level than the traditional employee-employer relationship.

If you want to build a successful team around you that can solve complex issues (that will arise in the restaurant industry), you need to know what each team member can and cannot do. If a team member doesn’t like or is not proficient in spreadsheets, why make them in charge of accounting? You have a shy and reserved person yet you put them in front as a host because you think it will help them grow. At what cost? A poor first impression for your guests when they walk in and are greeted with a lack of enthusiasm.

Know Your Strengths

Knowing your team is one side of the equation. The other side is you have to know yourself. Awareness precedes choice and choice precedes change. You must become self-aware of who you are as a person and as a leader. No, that does not mean you need to sit in meditation for 3 hours a day (however 20 minutes is good for you). This is about knowing what you are good at. Knowing what you are okay at. And, knowing what you just suck at.

Trying to develop your weaknesses is a waste of time. You will grow stronger as a team when you focus in on what you are amazing at. Oh, and allow me to digress on the topic of having passion. The gurus out there say if you're passionate about what you do, you’ll be fine. Not exactly. Passion is nice and it amplifies your skills. It won’t replace skills and being damn awesome at what you do. Screw passion, become a badass with your skill sets!

So, what are you so damn great at that people cannot ignore you? That’s your strength right there! Focus on what you excel at and build a team around you for the areas you are not so good at (or perhaps you suck at). When you do have your dream team in place, step back and allow them to do what they do best.

Remember that you hired them for their skills and there is a big difference between training and taming a person. When you train your team, you harness and focus their natural strengths to higher levels. When you tame your team, you suppress those natural strengths and make them less.

Have a Solid Plan

Without a crystal clear plan, you will not get very far in the restaurant world. Sure, you might have some initial success without a plan. Hey, even a broken watch is right twice a day! Long term success requires a long term vision and a plan to get there.

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Look at it this way: you could drive from Los Angeles to New York City without a map. Chances are without a clear route or even a vague plan, your chances are very slim you’ll get there. Hey, it could happen. So could getting hit by lightning twice in the same day!

Proper planning allows you to make adjustments when you get off track. Think of a plan like having a map. In fact, I use the analogy of a map as having a Massive Action Plan (M.A.P.).

  • What is your plan to develop yourself?

  • What is your plan to develop your team?

  • What is your plan for marketing?

  • What is your plan for growing sales?

  • What is your plan to increase profits?

  • What is your plan for recruiting?

  • What is your plan for improving your systems?

  • What is your plan for improving the guest experience?

  • What is your plan for your menu?

These questions above are a great place to start if you don’t already have a plan in action. The bottom line is that successful restaurants always have a plan. They know precisely where they are and where they want to be (1 year, 3, years, and 5 years) down the road. Once you have a plan in place, you just need to map out your journey with action steps that will take you there.

Want more tips from Donald Burns on how to create a better restaurant? Check out the recent episode of The Barron Report below where Burns breaks down some of the psychological principles that get in your way from building the restaurant and life you truly desire.

5 Reasons Why Food Halls are the Perfect Entry Point for the Foodservice Operator

Look around and it’s possible you have seen a food hall pop up in any major city in the US. Why? Because they are epic that’s why?

Okay, maybe that is a little too general and biased but let’s take this to a practical approach and explore the 5 reasons why food halls are the perfect entry point for the foodservice professional.

#1: They meet guest demand for variety and lower price points and that is key

Guests want and desire change often. Food halls allow today’s consumer to meet a need that traditional restaurants don’t...cuisine variety.

A lot of restaurants can have a wide range of selections on their menu, however, they most likely are within a certain niche. Hard to find a menu that has crepes, ramen, sushi, and bbq on the same menu.

Food halls allow today’s consumers to find a little bit of everything. The smart food halls also offer smaller portions to encourage a more grazing style to eating. Variety is the spice of life they say and food halls allow people to explore other cuisines in a safe format.

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#2: They offer lower startup costs than traditional brick and mortar restaurants

For restaurants just getting started the food hall allows you to get started without the major financial commitments that most traditional restaurant ventures require. No need to spend money on dining rooms and furniture as the food hall will take care of these areas.

You can get into a food hall concept for about a quarter of the costs that a 50-75 seat restaurant would be. That gives budding entrepreneurs a fighting chance in an ultra-competitive market like we are in now. There are some many costs that new restaurants do not anticipate that can really put a concept way behind the eight-ball before opening. Unexpected construction overruns with plumbing and electrical work, for example. HVAC installment that requires customized ductwork. Stainless steel tables. Refrigeration that can meet health department codes and more variables.

These areas of construction can quickly get out of budget really fast for new restaurants. In fact, the number one reason most new restaurants fail is undercapitalization. That usually occurs from construction costs eating up your startup budget.

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#3: They allow you to refine your brand without too much risk

Food halls that are properly planned offer something that goes beyond the classic food court at a mall like we grew up with. These new food meeting spaces have become the rage in most markets since they offer food at an elevated level that goes beyond the standard pizza, Chinese food, or hot dogs offered at mall food courts. Instead, food halls offer upscale options like gourmet burgers, street tacos, poke, churros, lobster rolls, and many other ethnic specialties.

Forward thinking and entrepreneurial-minded food halls are also doing something that is exciting for new restaurant owners: they offer business coaching. Think of it as a business incubator!

Since food halls are successful when their tenants are successful, it makes sense to give people resources that perpetuate that success. Business development, branding consulting, restaurant systems, and marketing are just a few of the services that business coaching can provide.

#4: Existing restaurants can expand into new markets

“Food Halls allow an existing brand to really take their signature items to a new level. Luke’s Lobsters took the one item they are known for their Classic Lobster Roll and started rolling them out in food halls. That side business of doing what they do best brings in over $4M for the brand! says Kelley Jones of Kelley Jones Hospitality (Las Vegas.)

If you have a signature item, you should consider making a food hall concept focused on that! It can not only build brand depth, but it can also increase brand awareness. Remember that the goal is for market domination and recognition. Food halls offer a cheaper alternative to opening another full-service location.

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#5: They allow you to have a better life

The food hall experience also can provide you with a lifestyle outside of the realm of having a full-service establishment. One thing many don’t consider is that with bigger restaurants come bigger headaches. All business problems are really people problems in disguise. So, the bigger your staff, the greater the possibility of more people problems popping up.

Also, as competition grows, having a small established food hall concept means you can staff it much easier! You will see that as labor becomes tighter and people demand higher wages, the food hall concept will be a great option for restaurateurs. Small is the new big! Plus, with the lower opening costs, it becomes a prime path to grow into a little restaurant empire.

Food halls are not slowing down anytime soon. The smart restauranteur will take advantage now before the rest of the market become wise and then jumps on the food hall bandwagon. It’s always better if you can be an early adopter to trends that have staying power.

Food halls are here. Are you going to jump in?

Want to learn more about food halls? Don’t miss this recent On Foodable Side Dish episode showcasing some of Miami’s best food halls.

Building the Right Marketing Plan for 2019

Listen on: iTunes | Google Play | tunein | iHeartRADIO | Spotify

Marketing for 2019 is beginning to morph into a new face of digital, in person and one to one marketing that involves a variety of strategies that are improving the overall performance of restaurant operators across the country. The four P’s have been a cornerstone of measuring and developing a plan in the past around Product, Price, Place, and Promotion and today is no different.

I get a chance to sit down with The Restaurant Coach, Donald Burns and explore some of 2019’s key marketing tips to employee for your restaurant as we discuss the issue around Price and why it is much more than what is on your menu, all the way to Promotion and what new tactics are working and what is not.

We also discuss the falling engagement on Facebook for restaurant operators and the potential of new platforms and tactics that might be more effective including creating content for your business as a new strategy for 2019. Even email is coming back with today's operators and the potential of a new club strategy vs loyalty. As you can see this podcast is packed with ideas and discussion on ways to improve your marketing position for 2019.

Stay tuned for my breakdown of the Top Loyalty programs for 2019 and why I think they work and what they need to do to improve.

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