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The Top 10 Things Learned from Working with 2000+ Restaurants

leadership operations Feb 12, 2020
I keep detailed coaching notes from every client I have had over the past 11 years as The Restaurant Coach™. Some of those stories make it into my books, speaking gigs, podcasts, or just as a solid warning to new clients about what not to do! Never fear, the names have been changed to protect those that have a restaurant that sucks. 
Sidenote: If you just asked yourself the question, "Does my restaurant suck?"...chances are it might. Don't worry, read the rest of this post for ways to not have your restaurant suck! 

Working with so many diverse clients is an incredible opportunity for me to share the lessons and challenges I see in restaurants around the world. Oh, and if you think your problems are special to just apply to your restaurant, they are not. All business problems are either people problems or math problems. Get the right people to solve math problems. 

You see, it’s not that our problems are that different. It’s the solutions to how you deal with those problems that are the great divide between those that struggle, from those that thrive to the rare few that drive their market.

I’m not a fan of competition. It’s only good for the consumer, not the business. Your goal should always be to dominate your market.

So, here are 10 Lessons I Have Learned So Far From Working with Over 2000 Restaurants:

1. Most people don’t know their numbers. 

I am always shocked when I ask an audience how many know the exact cost of every item on their menu and less than 5% raise their hand. if you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business. You actually have more of a hobby than a business...a very expensive hobby. You would be better off closing the doors and buying horses.

2. People don’t know their core values either! 

Another shocking result I get when polling audiences is less than 2% of the crowd knows their core values! If you don’t know who you are and what you stand for then why are you in business?

3. Bad hiring is a disease. 

I know the labor pool is shrinking and it’s hard to find people out there. Let’s turn that sentence upside down and ask a few questions:
A. Are you actively recruiting talent each week or just placing a couple of boring job ads hoping that the next superstar is going to walk in?
B. Do you have a culture that attracts top talent?
#TruthBomb: A-players don’t want to work for a C-level restaurant.

4. Your time management most likely sucks. 
Stop saying you’re too busy. I’ve had clients track their activities for a week and they are always shocked when they see how much time they waste doing stupid activities! If you would focus your energy and attention on a few key tasks each day you would be totally amazed at what you could get done! You’re not as busy as you think.

5. You’re not marketing enough. 
I hate to say that a lot of restaurants post on social media, very few actually market. The same boring food pics you post a couple of times a week are competing against the restaurant down the street that is also posting boring food pics. Stop being boring and start getting attention by using video storytelling!

6. You should fire about 20% of your team. 
You have some people on your team right now that you know you should get rid of. Those negative energy vampires that just suck the life out of you and your culture. Facilitate their freedom to go down the street to your competition where their negative energy will not harm you anymore. I think to think of this as a form of legal sabotage to your competition. 😃

7. Most likely you don’t take care of yourself as you should.
Remember that “too busy” mentioned before? Here it pops it’s ugly little head up again. In the hospitality world, we give and give to others. Who gives it to you? Self-care is pretty self-explanatory: care of yourself! Think of it as the oxygen mask on the airplane: you got to put your mask on first before you help others.
For heaven's sake: eat better, get more sleep, and go for a walk every now and then. Oh, and stop snacking on the French Fries in the kitchen!!

8. One of the main reasons for turnover is unclear standards and unspoken expectations. 
Communication is key if you want to build a badass culture. We have way too many false assumptions of what people should be doing and then jump on them for not reading our minds and knowing what we expected! Talk about a recipe for failure.
Yet, everyday managers play this game of “they should know.” Well, they don’t know, so do a better job of explaining clearly what the standards and expectations are. Yes, this means you have to talk to people face-to-face.
Sidenote: If you don't like to talk to people face-to-face, then perhaps it's time to think about a career beyond leadership in the hospitality industry. I think Uber is hiring. LOL

9. Communication in restaurants sucks! 
I know I just mentioned communication in the one above, however, it is such a big part of the problems that restaurant experience that it needs to be addressed again. Stop sending text messages, emails, or posting memos without face-to-face communication with the team.
Communication can be broken down into three ratios: 7-38-55. 55% of how we communicate is non-verbal. 38% is related to tone. That small 7% is just the words themselves. So when you send out that group text, email, or hang that memo up on the bulletin board you are only effectively communicating 7%. And we wonder why most restaurants suck.
Insert shameless plug for my books here so Your Restaurant Doesn’t Suck! 

10. Remember where the word restaurant came from. 
Let’s take a trip back in time to Paris in 1765. There was a tavern owner by the name of Monsieur Boulanger that had the entrepreneurial bug to sell his soup to the public. Problem was that the guilds controlled the selling of food to the public so he was told no. His solution? There wasn’t a soup guild at that time, so he went to court and won the right to sell his concoction to the public.
He called it “a restorative”. The word 'restaurant' derives from the French verb restaurer, meaning to restore. When people come to a restaurant they are coming to have their soul restored! That’s a pretty big responsibility if you take the word restaurant to heart.

Do you treat the people in your restaurant as weary travelers looking for their soul to be restored by your hospitality, food, and drink? Or do you see them as a table number and a sale? The answer is the difference between those restaurants that survive and those that thrive.

Getting the restaurant you want starts with investing in yourself. Reading books. Listening to audiobooks. Going to workshops. Joining a mastermind group. Getting a coach to help you break bad habits and install new ones (hint, hint). Your restaurant will improve when you improve. 
I tell clients often that restaurant success is not rocket’s people science.

Aim for outstanding!

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