Leadership Skills for the New-Age Operator

As an operator in today’s climate, there are new challenges when it comes to management at your restaurant.

There are new populations like Gen Y and millennials to understand. There’s new technology to learn and then train your staff with. There’s the high turnover, so you are consistently looking for reliable team members. There’s the challenge of retention and creating a culture that staff members want to be a part of.

The most successful operators are new-age leaders who aim to develop new leaders and build a culture that stands out.

But the first step to being a great leader is understanding motives.

We sat down with Rudy Miick, founder of Miick Companies on the recent IOChangeMakers live stream to see what it takes to be a leader today as the restaurant industry experiences a profound shift. As Miick points out, there are two types of workers today. Ones that have to work to make a living and others that are inspired to work.

So the goal is to inspire your team. But that is easier said than done. It all starts with defining the “why” or as Miick calls it “your purpose.”

“If I don’t have a sense of purpose or what some people now call the why, if I don’t know why we’re in business besides making money, then I end up being that rudderless leader,” says Miick.

Once you define the why and then establish values that support the why this is how you create or build a culture that resonates. Understanding the why also inspires new leaders within your team.

Want more leadership tips from Miick? Check out the clip above. The full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

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.



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.



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.



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.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Restaurant Marketing

Getting your marketing message attention today can seem like you are throwing rocks into the ocean, trying to make a splash. While social media has made it easier than ever to reach a global market, it also has become saturated with millions of posts and videos all vying for users' attention. Those rocks you are throwing hoping to make an impact in the ocean of social media are sometimes not doing anything except making you frustrated.

How do you create a marketing plan that gets your brand out in front of the rest? How can you be the leader and not a follower on social media? How can you parlay those likes into people in your restaurant?

Let’s break it down in this Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Restaurant Marketing!

Become Obsessed

Getting to the top of the social media game is about getting serious about owning your space! That means you are going to have to get busy making bigger waves across your social media channels. In order to do this, you’re going to need a couple shifts in your mindset.

Post consistently. Nothing quite confuses people like the hot and cold relationship! One week you are steady and sharing the love of your brand everywhere and then you disappear for a couple weeks. People crave a little consistency in their lives. If you fail to remind them you’re there, they soon start going to another restaurant that shows them a little more love than you have. Shame on you for not being more committed to the fragile guest-restaurant relationship.

Post more often. Yeah, the restaurant marketing gurus will argue that you can post too much. It’s a safe bet that you are not posting enough.

The best way to see how far you should go with your restaurant is to push the edge and see how far you have to go to start getting some pushback! If you are not getting complaints about posting too much, then you are not posting enough! Do you think McDonald’s runs only two commercials a week? Oh hell no! They want you singing that jingle in your head when you are driving and they want you dreaming of Big Macs!



Play to Emotions

If you stroll through any social media stream right now, it would be easy to say that 95% of restaurant posts are one-dimensional pictures of either their food or a beverage. If, your hungry or thirsty at that moment you might take some action and head to the restaurant. The odds are that you’ll just keep scrolling.

Stop to think about the emotions behind your posts. What emotional heartstrings are you pulling on? The real secret to marketing anything is to transfer emotions. The same if you want to sell luxury cars, real estate, or getting people to come to your restaurant. Emotions are the meaning behind the message.

Ruth's Chris Steak House doesn’t just sell steaks, they sell status and an image of being the best. Chipotle doesn’t sell burritos, they sell food that is hormone free and their guests identify with that lifestyle. Same for Whole Foods. Consumers don’t shop there because it’s the best price. They shop there for the status that you can afford to shop there!

What are some emotions behind your brand? Local? Sustainable? Are you a status brand? Are you a convenience brand? The trick is to find your tribe and then speak to them.

Video Is King

If you haven’t looked at the calendar lately...it’s 2019. If you want to stand out in the crowded social media ocean, you must start putting out video content. A few years ago, it was a nice addition to add to your marketing message. Today it is required if you want to get a hyper attention deficit audience to listen!

Video is the dragon slayer to the big brands. You have access to a noble video studio in the form of your smartphone or tablet. The cameras on these things are incredible and they get better every year! You also have apps that you can download to edit your videos and then make them public with your own channel on YouTube. You don’t need a fancy website or thousands of dollars in professional video equipment to get started. Just get started!

It’s shocking that most people know the power that video can play in marketing and yet they don’t use it. If you’re one of them, let’s break down a few reasons you still might be on the sidelines about using video.

You're afraid it might not be good.

Okay, it’s a legitimate fear, however, people are more interested today about the message. Look at some of the videos shot on smartphones and the millions of views they get! If you speak from the heart and share your story with the world of why you do what you do, someone will listen and they will share that to someone else, who will share that with someone else. That’s how things get viral.

You don’t like the way you look or sound on camera.

Okay, you’re not going to like this...no one really cares. Seriously, stop worrying about how you look and refine what you want to say! The message always beats out over looks. They are plenty of actors in Hollywood that are not the definition of good looking and they find a way to get their message heard.



Use the 80:20 Principle

Gather close because here is the biggest secret to social media marketing...it’s about being social! Not much of a secret is it? The sad thing is that too many get stuck on the “all about me” wavelength that they fail to see it.

Social media needs to be more about others than yourself. That’s not only smart marketing, but it’s also smart business! People might pay attention to a self-centered brand for a few minutes, however, it won’t last long term. You need to show people you are interested in them too if you want staying power. Brands that last always put others first.

A good rule of thumb to follow is the 80:20 Principle or also known as Pareto’s Law. Basically, 80% of your efforts come from just 20% of your activities (or actions). On social media, that means you should be liking other people’s post and commenting on their stuff 80% of the time. The other 20% is about you and your restaurant.

This small shift in attention will have a huge impact on your marketing. Why? Because people want to know you are listening. They want to see you engage with them. They want you to be human. They want to know you care.

Drop the pretentious bullshit and just be authentic. Be you. That is your number one marketing advantage. There is only one person who is you.

The moment you stop marketing and start sharing your story with the world is the day you stop competing and you begin to dominate!

Be Different

For the love of all that is holy, please (and I really mean please): stop posting the same boring stuff! Yes, the majority of the population just go along with the crowd and don’t rock the boat. If you want to stand out on social media then your only option is TO ROCK THE BOAT!

Playing it safe is like aiming for third place in a race. It doesn’t really get too much! You want to make it a goal to get a little edgy in your marketing. That is how you get attention today, by being clever, being unorthodox, being different, being memorable!



Food posts, specials, and reminders about your happy hour just are so commonplace that the majority of your followers just tune out. Replace that boring stuff that everyone else of doing with:

  • Video at the local farmer’s market.

  • Volunteering at the local food bank.

  • Rave about your team.

  • Rave about your guests.

  • Showcase the ingredients you methodically select for your restaurant.

  • Take us behind the scenes of a catered event.

  • Let us see your menu planning session with your chefs.

Just stop posting the same things that 99% of your market is and dare to be different.

As it was mentioned earlier: with the advancements in technology today, you can shoot a video, edit, and upload it all from your smartphone. The only excuse you have is that you don’t want to really market your restaurant effectively and would rather just complain about business being slow. Complaining gets you nothing and nowhere in today’s market. Taking immediate action does.

Are you going to always hit a home run with each post! Of course not. That’s why you must track your data to see what sticks and what people ignore. Then all you do is create more along the lines of what they like!

Social media isn’t a science, it about connecting with people on their level. That’s critical to remember, marketing is about how your guests see you. Too many times we think marketing is about us. No. You want to connect with people to what is important to them. When you can get past the it's “all about you” mindset, you’ll finally have the real secret of social media marketing down.

Want more tips from Donald Burns on how to improve 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. Stay tuned for more insights from The Restaurant Coach in an upcoming episode of The Barron Report releasing soon.

7 Creative Ways Staffing Your Restaurant Will Change in 2019

How has this year treated you and your restaurant? How has your quest to find staff been?

If you are like the majority of restaurants, it’s been a big challenge. Here’s the bad news, it’ll probably will not get much better in the coming year.

But don’t get all sad about it just yet. There are some innovative and creative ways to get new staff to come to your restaurant.

You’re going to need to have an open mind and a commitment to taking action to see these ideas through. That’s the keyword to finding staff...action. Most talk a good game about attracting staff, but only a few actually follow through.

This is good news for the restaurant that is willing to make recruiting a priority in 2019. While others sit back and accept the labor market as being a challenge, innovative restaurants see this as a time to stand out. As Shakespeare so eloquently put it, “nothing is neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” There is as much of a labor crunch as you buy into.

  • Think people are lazy? You will attract lazy people.

  • Think everyone steals? You will have thieves.

  • Think people are dumb? You will have staff that reflects your limited beliefs.

Come to the table with the mindset of expecting the best from others and not the worst. Yes, being in this industry can make people jaded and cynical. If (and it’s a big if) you want to be that way. Defy the norm. Challenge the bullshit rules that others accept. Have a game plan to change how you are looking at staffing.

To help you break free from the pack of mediocrity, here are seven creative (and controversial) ways to challenge your hiring mindset.



1. Start playing offense and less defense

Actively recruiting talent must be a top priority when hiring in the coming year! You can no longer sit back, post a few help wanted ads on the internet and “hope” some people apply. Hope is NOT a strategy you want to invest in. Invest in taking action!

Get on social media and network like your business depends on it because it does. Connect with people and ask for referrals. Message people and ask if they are looking for an opportunity. You need to play offense and stop hanging back waiting for qualified applicants to come to you.

In 2019, you’ll need to be a little more aggressive in pursuing top talent.

2. Tap into the “gig economy”

There is a new culture out there that wants to work very flexible shifts. Welcome to what is known as the "gig economy." A flexible workforce that seeks employment on their terms. Now before you dismiss this route, take a look at some of the gaps in your schedule.

Are gig workers the solutions for long-term success? Probably not. However, in conjunction with other tools, they do offer some relief to an industry that is struggling to fill positions.

Banquet servers, service assistants, utility personnel, and event bartenders are potential positions that you could tap into for gig work. The upside is those seeking gig work are not full-time employees of your establishment so you avoid many of the extra costs associated with employment. The downside is that many are not invested into your brand as a full-time employee might be so the chances of them not showing for a shift does escalate.

3. Look towards older generations

As people realize that their little nest egg for retirement might not be a big as they thought, many are returning to the workforce. Now, before you snub the idea of having your dad work in your restaurant, take a look at the strengths that many older generations offer.

They were brought up to respect hard work. While some of the younger generations seek the buzzword of “life balance,” Gen X and Baby Boomers actually like to work and they work hard.

Baby Boomers in particularly live to work. They are of the mindset that you work for a company until it’s time to retire from there. Dedication is a virtue they embellish.

Gen Xers are known to work to live. This generation will work hard for the nice house, car, and luxury vacations. They are not scared of working hard if they can get what they want. They show up for the reward and the perks.



4. Skip the millennials

For all the hype millennials get at being the “me generation” they aren’t that bad. Yes, they get some stereotype bashing on social media. Yes, some of it probably is accurate. However, every generation has its strengths and its flaws. It depends on what you are willing to tolerate.

Maybe it’s time to focus on the newest generation entering the workforce and that is Gen Z? These young and rising powerhouse workers are designed for a fast pace environment and quick cognitive reflexes (just watch them play a multiplayer video game.) They want to learn and are quick at accessing information from the internet (mostly via YouTube videos.)

They are just starting to turn 21 and are a prime resource if you know how to recruit them. That means your culture is going to need to be hip and cool.

You’re going to need to know what you stand for (called core values) and want to be a part of something bigger than just your restaurant (think community.) The best way to attract them is to showcase your team having fun and making a difference through your social media.

5. Tap into the veteran pool

With the rising numbers of military veterans returning from deployment, you have a very capable potential teammate looking for ways to integrate back into civilian life. Why not help out a vet and your business at the same time?

No matter what your stance is on the military, you should take a look at these potential candidates. They are highly trained in a variety of skills. They take orders well. They exhibit discipline. They are respectful. They are self-motivated.

Contact your local Veterans Administration Office and see how your restaurant could help some vets reintegrate back into society. It’s a smart move for everyone in your community.

6. Show the world your culture

Looking through most social media feeds you see the same boring posts 95% of the time. A picture of a menu item or a drink from the bar. Zzzzzz.

If you want to attract better talent, then make social media an integrated part of your recruiting plan! If you don’t have a steady stream of people coming to apply at your restaurant then you have done a very poor job of recruiting. You think that people are going to hear about what a fantastic place you are to work at my word of mouth? Get real. Word of mouth has been replaced by world of mouth.

Show your team having fun. Show your chefs creating the weekend features with a video. Showcase your team through fun “did you know” kind of posts that make your team appear as real people (I know that might be a new concept for some.) Celebrate your teammate birthday’s, anniversaries, or kids! Show the world how much you care about your team and they will start to notice.



7. Have a referral program

In an ever growing economy, money sometimes does speak the loudest. It’s a little sad, yet it’s the truth at times. You can resist this or you can make it work for you.

Welcome the 25:25:50 referral program. For every applicant that applies (and gets hired) the referring employee gets $25. If they stay the next 30 days (usually the make it or break it deadline for most) they get another $25. If they stay 90 days (which tells you if they have staying power) and the employee gets another $50. This scale, of course, can be adjusted to meet your needs.

The best tips for a referral program to work are these:

  • It must be followed. You can’t promise to pay people and referral fee and not pay.

  • It must be communicated constantly. You can’t just roll out a new process and have no follow-up communication. That is just stupid to say things one time and expect them to be ingrained into their subconscious. Repetition is the mother of all skills. Repetition is the mother of all skills. Repetition is the mother of all skills. Repetition is the mother of all skills. I think you get the hint.

While the labor challenges are going to be public enemy number one for restaurants in 2019. A smart operator will open their eyes to new ways to actively recruit, hire, train, and retain their talent. The game is going to get too competitive to lose a teammate for lack of doing your duty as a leader.

You’re going to need to play the game to win and not to lose. That means you might have to cut loose the poor performers that are dragging your brand down. Yes, that might seem to be counterintuitive when facing a labor shortage.

The truth is that there are plenty of high-quality employees out there. Those negative energy vampires you hold onto out of fear are just driving away any top talent you might have now or can attract in the future. Energy attracts the same kind of energy: positive attracts positive and of course negative just brings more negative.

Be the leader your team needs and send the negative energy ones down the road to work for your competition. Think of it like legal sabotage. Out with the bad and replaced with the good.

If you follow these seven ways to get creative with your staffing methods then you won’t have to worry about it as much as you have been.

5 Misconceptions Most Managers Have About Leadership

5 Misconceptions Most Managers Have About Leadership

So, what is your title? Are you a manager or a leader? Before you jump on the “I’m a leader bandwagon”, it's time to really think about it.

You might be suffering from Leadership Delusion. It’s fairly common in this industry. We have a lot of preconceived notions about what a leader really is.

When you look up the definition of what leadership is and it’s a little vague: "The action of leading a group of people or an organization" or "the state or position of being a leader."

That being said it seems that leadership is classified as a noun when in reality it should be a verb.

Leadership is an act.

  • It’s action.

  • It’s a responsibility.

  • It’s accountability.

  • True leadership is not what you do, it’s who you are.

So let’s take a few to look at some of the common misconceptions that most managers have about leadership.

1. Saying You’re a Leader Makes You a Leader

Just because your business card says your a leader or the boss doesn’t mean you are in the eyes of your staff. In fact, most probably joke and call you the “boss”. It doesn’t take much to walk around talking down to the staff and acting like you are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Many strut the restaurant like they are roosters getting ready for a death match. Why? Because they are overcompensating for their lack of confidence. The loudest ones are generally those that are the most afraid inside.

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