Arguably, restaurants are one of the most challenging of all businesses and require a “hands-on” approach. No-one can deny the high failure rate, and marginal operations quickly become new statistics.

It’s no wonder, as this business is literally one of a thousand details and that hands-on approach leaves many owners and managers working 6 and 7 days a week, opening early and closing late. Is their restaurant running them and not the other way around? Yes!

So how do you “turn the tables” (pardon the pun) on this situation? First, begin with your staff. When I ran restaurants, I trained and empowered my entire team to do two important things: “Think like an owner, treating the restaurant and everything in it as if they had to pay for it” and “Notice and see what the guest sees, fixing what’s broken”. This was the beginning of my restaurant’s transformation.

Staff are the cornerstone of any business and by changing my approach to hiring, constantly training, recognizing and rewarding my staff, I built a “dream team” that became a powerful competitive advantage. Not only were they rising to daily challenges, but they were building my business and my brand. It’s all about your approach.

You need to get rid of your “C-players” immediately – those just showing up for a paycheck and replace them with solid “B’s”. B-Teamers may lack basic experience, but have a true desire to serve the public and make new friends. These people are trainable and will quickly become your “stars” with the all-important training, recognition and rewards. I found most of these promising up and comers as referrals from my other “dream team” veterans, but never by placing ads in the help-wanteds or putting a sign in the window.

Next tackle your finances. I became obsessed with profit. As a seasonal operator, I had to be to not only stay in business, but to really crush-it! I created simple tracking tools to stay on top of my critical numbers, so I knew at a glance my prime costs, daily break-even and item by item bottom-line contribution. I am constantly amazed at the number of restaurants out there who don’t take regular inventory or don’t know which items have the highest contribution margin versus those item’s popularity.

Finally, there is Marketing and constantly see most operators take the same understandable but mis-guided approach. Don’t get caught in the trap of traditional advertising. You can really spend thousands of dollars on radio, print, TV and direct mail with no proven way to accurately track your Return On Investment. Instead, think “Guerilla Marketing”. Relentlessly pursue marketing opportunities that cost little to no money, but have a huge return. Here’s where your staff come back to the picture. It all comes full circle. If you follow my advice of training recognizing and rewarding, your staff become your most powerful “Brand Ambassadors” giving your customers many reasons to return to your restaurant and tell their friends. It’s absolute fact that “word of mouth” and positive online reviews are your most effective forms of marketing.

So it’s a brand new day. Go to work “On” your business now so you decide what you can and want to do tomorrow. Your cash register will ring and your family and bank account will thank you.

Go out there and Rock Your Restaurant!

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