Embrace The Suck Blog

Is Your Menu a Cannibal?

menu design profitability Dec 26, 2017

Menu items that are very similar fight or cannibalize each other for sales. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the first thing he did was ask his team one simple question, "What products would you recommend to a friend?" When he did not get a very clear answer he reduced the number of Apple products from 350 to just 10!

Think about your menu. What items are your "hits"? Those dishes that your team just knocks out of the ball every time? That is what your menu should consist of! Too many items leads to what psychologists call "the paradox of choice" is when too many choices leads to anxiety about our choices. So when your menu has too many items, guests get frustrated and tend to go for the "safe" choice. The bad news is that your safe choice might not be a big profit maker.

Sometimes what you do NOT put on your menu is more important then what you do.

Here are some key questions to ask about your menu:

  • Why do I drive to your restaurant?
  • What do we do better than anyone?
  • Is...
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Why Thinking Like an Owner is Bad

leadership mindset Dec 24, 2017

If you are a restaurant owner or manager (ugh, I do not like the word manager, however bear with me). You have probably either spoken these words or heard them said to you, “You need to think like an owner!”

Here’s the double edged sword when you hear that statement:

1. Many don’t want to be owners!

Like a lot of things in life, we assume others want what we want. Sorry to burst your bubble, no. Most people don’t want to be an owner (or a manager). If you are a highly driven individual then you have a hard time understanding why others are not driven and want what you want. Here’s a clue: everyone has different wants and desires. I know that’s not groundbreaking news, yet we tend to generalize and group people by the way we see the world.

Have you ever promoted someone thinking that they wanted the new position, only to find out later that they never really wanted it. They most likely took the promotion because they didn’t want to...

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The Price of Fear in Your Restaurant

mindset peak performance Dec 24, 2017

“I am running out of fuel. I’m not going to make it.”, the pilot of a small single engine aircraft said over the radio.

My first duty station as a Pararescuemen was with the 67th ARRS (Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Service) in Woodbridge RAF in the United Kingdom. We routinely flew up to Keflavik, Iceland to support our unit stationed there. Normally the flight up is pretty quiet and uneventful. Not this time.

A small plane was en route to Iceland and the pilot flying alone had run short on fuel. He was going to have to ditch the plane and land in the North Atlantic Ocean. Landing in rough open waters is a challenge in itself. Landing in water that is so cold that hypothermia will set in within minutes is the real threat.  When you first go into extremely cold water you go into what is called cold shock response. People start to hyperventilate immediately. For one to three minutes you breathe very fast and deep, uncontrollably. If you can’t swim or...

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What's Your Kryptonite? The 3 Biggest Elements Holding You Back

Anyone familiar with comic books knows that Superman’s weakness was kryptonite. Throughout history, mankind has faced great adversaries that test who we are. It’s when we face those demons and take the challenge to tackle them head on that we find our true strength.

This industry is bittersweet at times. It can be extremely rewarding and it can just as quickly chew you up and spit you out. Some might think that working in the industry is a roller coaster love affair. You really do have to love it to get through the low days. In the end, it truly is a reflection of the phrase "what you sow you’ll reap."

Entry into management is a special passage all to itself. For some it is an honor to become a manager. For others, it’s a curse. 81% of new managers say they did not receive the proper training before making the jump over to management. That is truly a sad fact. To think that people are put into a position of influence and receive very little training is...

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Are You Addicted to Average?

leadership mindset Dec 19, 2017

The dream to open a restaurant is alive and well here in America. The good news is that around 5,300 new restaurants have opened from 2012 to 2015. Real estate is booming and if you look around your city you’ll see new construction sites popping up. If you have the money, you can easily open a restaurant.

The bad news is that It’s estimated that 50% close their doors by year three. Of those that survive, most just limp along. Basically breaking even. Let’s get this clear from the start, you go into business to thrive and make a profit.

“I think I’ll start a restaurant to break even.” -Said no one ever 

So how do restaurants get in this trap? What happens from when they open to the point they have to close the doors? It can be summed up in five words: they become addicted to average.

If you remember back in school, we were graded on the bell curve. The bell curve was created to provide a “fair” distribution of grades among...

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Is Your Restaurant Brand Sending Mixed Messages?

branding operations Dec 19, 2017

Is the sea of restaurant options out there does your brand stand out? So many fail to capture the attention of their guests and just blend in with the many. The main reason is that they send mixed messages about who they are. Listen, when you are confused about who you are and what you stand for, how do you think your market will react to you? Lukewarm at best. Sure, new guests might stop in out of curiosity. If you don't deliver a solid message, they won't be back.

Let's explore some common mixed message mistakes and a 3 step plan to correct course:

Menu Confusion

Your sign out front, your website, and Yelp all say you're an Italian restaurant. Yet when guests come in and see your menu you can tell by the look on their face that they are confused. Asian Chicken Wings? Baja Fish Tacos? Bacon Wrapped Filet with French Demi Glacé? Oh, and in the corner 4 pasta dishes. Hmmm. What is going on here? You say Italian in all your marketing and when they get there, very little Italian...

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Got Entitlement? Here Are 3 Warning Signs

culture leadership Dec 16, 2017

A year ago I had a challenge with a chef. He wasn’t open to new systems or following through on some projects he started. He basically just wanted to order high end ingredients and play with food. Didn’t care about food or labor costs because that would stifle his “creative genius”.

We had a coaching session one afternoon and I mentioned the challenge of our industry changing and that he needed to adjust his skill sets to focus more on business. His only comments were:  he felt he worked his ass off,  he deserved a promotion (a better title) and he wanted more money.

As he walked away, I felt frustrated, and a little pissed off.

How could he be so blind as to his real performance level?

How could he not see that he was focused on just what was in this for himself?

I knew unless something changed, we would be having a different conversation in the near future about him leaving the company (that conversation happened about 2 months later).

...

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Struggling With Hiring? Here's Why!

hiring operations Dec 16, 2017

Word on the street is there is a labor shortage for restaurants and bars. They call it the war for talent. If you really look closely, the true is that is really is a war WITH talent. As an industry we have held tight to outdated management techniques like carrots and sticks. They just don’t work.

How about that old mindset that you must “break them down first, and then build them back up”? Really? When you break people down you end up with broken people. That is not smart business. You need to rethink how you think about hiring.

Asset or Liability

When you look at hiring do you view it as a necessary evil? Do you think of your team as an investment in your brand or just an expense line on your financial statements? There is a phenomenon called the Pygmalion Effect. Basically, it a cognitive bias that says what we expect we tend to get just like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think your staff is lazy and incompetent? Guess what you tend to see? You got it....

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How Nonverbal Cues Impact Your Restaurant

operations Dec 14, 2017

7. 38. 55.

Those three numbers are critical to understand how we communicate with each other. Seven percent of how we communicate is the choice of the word or the word itself. Thirty-eight percent is the tone. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t care for your tone?” That’s exactly what they meant. The biggest shocker is the last number 55. Over half of how we communicate is through non-verbal language. It’s definitely a reinforcement of the classic saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Think about your restaurant for a second. What nonverbal communication is your restaurant telling your guests? Before we dig into why this is so important, we’ll need to dive into the world of cognitive biases.

Mental Shortcuts

We live in a world where millions of bits of information are coming at us every second. In order to process everything, we tend to create mental shortcuts. Now some shortcuts like cognitive maps...

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The Big 4 Thieves of Food Costs

operations profitability Dec 12, 2017

If restaurants had water coolers to hang around and talk all day about the gossip of the moment, it would be about food cost. This topic is the thorn in the side of many a restaurant owner, operator and chef, each trying to walk that fine line between creativity and profitability.

In the classic 1972 book, "Cooking for Profit" by Robert Petrie, the author outlined the original "40 Thieves of Food Costs." This concept of food cost thieves has been circulating around ever since. There are many variables as to why your food cost may have gone astray. The number one concern most restaurants struggle with today is controlling those costs. Let’s take a look at the four big ones and help you dial in the food cost monster.

Not costing out your menu

You would think this is a no-brainer but you would be totally shocked and appalled at how many operators do not know what it costs to put out each plate in the restaurant. Do you think for one second that Apple does not know how much it...

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