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.