by Donald Burns, CDMP, CMEC, CHt
Success leaves clues. So does failure. I work with 300+ restaurants a year on average engaged in workshops, consulting and boot camps. In my 10X Restaurant Coaching Program I limit myself to working with only 10 clients per year. Seeing a wide variety of restaurants first hand I can tell you that there are patterns to a successful restaurant and there are warning signs when a restaurant is headed in the wrong direction. It’s not magic. There are traps that many fall into that hold success just out of reach.
It sounds simple enough but you would be surprised at how many people are so stubborn and think they know it all! Thinking you know it all already is a sure way to keep from learning anything about what you need to know to be a successful restaurant in today’s market. The people who are the most successful have decided that they need to be constantly learning. I have seen people who are stone cold failures and still will not listen to anyone who tries to help them learn something. It is sad really because their situation will never change until they decide that there is something to learn, and then set about trying to learn it.
2. Too Much Bad Advise
This is a big problem because everyone has that person who loves to tell you what you are doing wrong. Unless they have owned, operated or been successful in the restaurant industry, take their advise with caution. I see this the most when it comes to menu design.
Restaurants must be built for their market. You cannot be everything to everyone. You must be something to someone. It starts as an easy question to a friend, “What can I do to bring in business?” They reply, “You need to offer Mexican food!” Then you add something else, and something else. Next thing you know you have diluted your brand and your guests have lost their confidence in your restaurant.
Being a restaurant owner takes courage to stand by your brand. You will have all kinds of people offering advice, usually bad advice. You know your vision, you know your brand. Business is a cycle, sometimes up and sometimes down. If you have a well designed marketing plan then the ups and downs are not a big.
3. You Got in for the Wrong Reasons
4. Taking Shortcuts
Work with your team and preach your vision to them over and over until they get the message. You are the bearer of the standards and your vision for your restaurant.
Special note: if your brand is built on the idea of top quality food, then you can’t buy cheap ingredients! Trust me your guests will taste the difference and just will not come back.
5. Letting Negative People in your Restaurant
6. Settling for Average
I tell clients this all the time, “Good enough, never is.”
Once you start to compromise your integrity and settle for average your restaurant’s growth is pretty much dead in the water. The one thing you never want to surrender is your integrity. One of the first things I do in my 10X Restaurant Coaching Program is have my clients get in touch with their core values. Your core values help define your identity and being in tune with your core values with guide you through tough decisions.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ― Roy Disney
7. Not Keeping your Focus
It is so easy to get distracted in the restaurant business. You get in the day to day operations that you don’t have time to work on marketing, growth, training or any of the other details that it takes to run a successful restaurant. My biggest challenge when I start a restaurant coaching program is to change their mindset from working “in” their business to working “on” their restaurant.
8. Failing to have Systems and Using Them
What is the main thing that separates the chains from independent restaurants? Systems. They have them and they use them, daily. They create budgets and they use that as a guideline for how they operate. I would say that 90% of independent restaurant owners do not even have a budget.
9. Underestimating the Industry
The restaurant industry can be brutal and it can be extremely rewarding. My best advice is to keep learning and growing. Get subscriptions to newsletters from industry thought leaders, get magazines, get books, listen to a podcast and talk with others in the industry. That is one thing I love about the restaurant industry is most people really do love to talk and teach (at least the best ones do). I started a social network just for chefs to have a place to chat and share ideas, recipes and videos.
If you are a chef, please sign up at: The Chef Revolution
Looking for information, I have you covered there as well! Check out my daily news feed that pulls from all the popular restaurant writers: The Restaurant Coach Daily
10. Thinking That Someone Else is to Blame
I have said it many times in my blog posts, “You can blame the economy, the big bad chains and your staff. However, sooner or later you need to look in the mirror and question that maybe you are the thing holding your restaurant back?” The two things that take down a restaurant more than anything? Greed and ego.
Business is just that, business. Remember that.
Take your ego out of the equation and trust me, you will have a better restaurant.