The Four Horsemen of the Restaurant Apocalypse

When you listen to people talk about their restaurant, there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) verbal signals that causes you to have a reaction. A negative reaction. As a consultant, you hear these words spoken and in the back of your mind you hear a voice in your head say, “wait for it”.

Usually those voices are not wrong. It could be a few months or a year. Eventually, those that throw around boasting remarks tend to be sitting down and eating the very words they were saying.

What you say is a reflection on what is really going on in that three-pound piece of gray matter nestled on the top of your body. The funny thing about the words we say to ourselves, is that when we repeat them with energy, we actually believe them!

Here are three common phrases uttered by short sighted restaurants that originate from the three cardinal sins of leadership: ego, pride, and denial.

1. "We’re (or I am) The Best" — Ego

Resting on your laurels is like sending up the white flag of surrender. You just haven’t realized it. When you claim you are the best (and you might be right now) you also signal that you don’t have room for improvement.

When you stop growing, you start dying. Declaring you have reached the top also sends a message to those up and coming brands to set their sights on you. Some people like to be targets for competition. Far better to let your actions do the talking and just be the best in your market.

There is a wise quote from Lao Tzu: “Those that speak don’t know, and those that know don’t speak.”

False bravado signals that perhaps someone is overcompensating for something. There is a fine line between cocky and confidence. One talks a good game and the other produces results.

2. "That Won’t Work In My Market" — Pride 

This one comes out sometimes even before a person really even contemplated if the idea was viable. They just shot it down before it had a chance to take form.

This is too bad, because sometimes other people on your team will have some brilliant ideas. The owner or manager who feels like all originality must come from them is really selling their potential short.

When you are stubborn (foolish pride) to new ideas, you shut down innovation and the opportunity to grow. Remember, what happens when you stop growing?

When pride takes ahold, it's hard to see the forest through the tress. You basically run your restaurant with blinders on. You don’t notice little things that are really hurting your brand. You develop what scientists call a scotoma or a blind spot. Those little things you don’t want to see become bigger and more hurtful to your brand the longer they are ignored.

3. "I Don’t Need To Change" — Denial

Change is a constant in the universe. You can’t stop it or avoid it. Change is coming for your restaurant whether you welcome it or not.

Markets change. Guests want change. Economies change. Neighborhoods change. Look around and it’s a sure bet that something around you has changed in the last year. If you don’t adapt and adjust to what is going on around you, you’ll be quickly find yourself outmaneuvered. 

Not accepting change does not make it go away. Denial robs you of your personal power to invoke the changes needed to stay competitive in an ever growing industry. To take no action, actually is an action... it’s just not a smart action.

You can sit there on the side lines and think happy thoughts to yourself that your business is fine (and you don’t need to change or adjust to the market) or you can get in the game. Better to get up and face the reality of what is going on in your market. Denial is for cowards.

Think of Ego, Pride, and Denial as three of the Four Horsemen of The Restaurant Apocalypse. Who might you ask is the fourth horseman? It’s mediocrity.

Watch your words because they truly shape the way you see your restaurant. 

They are a warning sign that call to the four horseman to visit your brand. Once they come into your restaurant it’s a battle to remove them. The best defense is to never allow them to set up shop in your brand or your head.

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