19 for 2019
Get Your Business in Order Throughout the New Year with These Valuable Tips
New year, new resolve: to do better, be better and get better. We chatted up operators to discover what they’ll set their sights on when the calendar turns over. But why wait until Jan. 1? Get a jumpstart on success right now.
1. Be transparent with key team members. “How can I ask them to hit a sales-growth number if they don’t know the larger picture,” says Max Goldberg, partner in Nashville-based Strategic Hospitality multi-concept restaurant group.
2. Focus on how guests are treated by every person with whom they come in contact. Service is only rarely as good as it can be; resolve to do better. “It’s important to get customers to engage with you. For us, it’s students and, both with focus groups and informally, we talk to them on their level,” says Peter Napolitano, director of auxiliary services at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. (Napolitano recently retired after 40 years in the industry.)
3. Manage change with laser-like focus on how it will affect all stakeholders, especially guests and team members. When one of Strategic Hospitality’s restaurants was about to undergo reconcepting, Goldberg says they planned a series of thank-you parties for customers and worked to place any team member who wanted to stay within their other restaurants.
4. Assess your equipment inventory and match it to your needs. “There’s always something new. Talk to manufacturers so you don’t miss all what’s out there,” says Napolitano.
5. Visit your restaurant’s website to check functionality with special attention for mobile users. Hours and location should be right there, current menus posted. If there is a “contact us” function, respond within 12 hours.
6. Pretend that the health inspector is coming in tomorrow. If you wouldn’t pass with flying colors, get busy because maybe they will show up tomorrow.
7. Have a real snapshot of the financials. “Check key metrics on a daily basis. Don’t wait to be surprised,” says Goldberg.
8. Recommit to pre-shift meetings, if not on a daily basis, then at least several times a week. Make them upbeat, positive and energizing for staff.
9. If recipes aren’t written down, it’s impossible to follow them, cost them and calculate nutritionals. Formalize them and make sure they’re followed.
10. Look at your menu with fresh eyes. Is it appealing and in line with consumer preferences? Do-able? Ask yourself, truthfully, if you like the food. If you can’t answer an honest yes, get busy. “It needs to be accessible, approachable and comforting,” says Josh Capon, executive chef/partner of six New York City restaurants, including Lure Fishbar and Bowery Meat Company. ”I want menus that read like a list of greatest hits where I want to order everything. If there’s a dog at the bottom, get rid of it.”
11. Pay attention to both hard data and soft data. POS systems generate the hard stuff, while real people, as in customers, social posters and employees, stir up soft data. “Look at all of it,” says Capon. “Your POS system won’t tell you if 10 guests have asked about the cauliflower steak you took off the menu, but servers will.”
12. Commit to doing one thing better each day and conscientiously pursue a path to improvement. “I wake up every day thinking what can be better in our businesses and then decide what it will take to get there,” says Goldberg.
13. Recognize that staff is at least as important as guests and treat them accordingly—as real people rather than entries in the operating expense column. Greet them by name. Give verbal call-outs for jobs well done. Provide feedback with an emphasis on positive aspects and an eye toward improvement. “They’re not just my staff, they’re like family,” says Capon. “They have to be treated that way.”
14. Find ways to save money without compromising food quality or service standards. Better purchasing, less waste, smart labor management. “Mobile ordering is one area that can save labor cost and give you an opportunity to move those costs to the center of the plate,” says Napolitano.
15. Figure out how you might stand in the way of good forward progress. Says Capon: “I think of myself as the captain. There are all these moving parts and functions. It’s my job to hold it all together and let them do what they need to.”
17. Differentiate your restaurant so it stands distinct from competitors. There’s a joke among fast casuals that you could change the name on any of the menus and no one could tell which it belonged to. Don’t be that cookie-cutter business.
18. Stay fresh and relevant. “It’s absolutely necessary to evolve, be current and in the moment,” says Capon. “Weed out the noise and don’t worry about everyone else. Find your best course.”
19. Don’t lose sight of the day-to-day, but don’t get bogged down in the moment. Success will be heavily dependent on balancing present and future goals. And by the way, set some goals. “Figure out what the future needs to be,” says Napolitano.