• Peter Bouloukos

10 Things Every Restaurant Manager & Owner Should Know!


1. Selling begins before a guest or customers "enter" your store: The people you hire no doubt speak about the behaviors and energy the management team and ownership models. In a point & click world employees tweet and share an incredible amount about you...so do your guests!

Next, marketing must convey vision, positive energy & attitude as well as key points you will deliver upon with consistent integrity. When they enter the establishment, every staff member must clearly understand goals, vision and the type of character required to always deliver exceptional experiences. With this, all systems should support staff members so they can authentically and uniquely wow the guest in their own way. Remember, your competition is always YOU first. How can you be better each day as a leader first and as a restaurateur second. Here, look out for the best interests of the staff and cultivate a "winning" attitude at all times! Finally, remember the competition hires from the same talent pool as you. What sets you apart when selling generally the same beers, same beverages, same wines and the same claim of "great food?"

2) Find what stimulates financial profit while also developing profit at core: In a business where thousands of reactions naturally occur each day within each unique service cycle where people come from all types of unique life experience, learning how to manipulate or manicure perception is critical. It can be abstract or subliminal things like open-handed service versus backhand delivery or simply using proper terminology disarming certain defense mechanisms people have.

All transactions must be held to a high standard of set rules but the sweet spot occurswhen you encourage and support each staff member to deliver from their own hearts and minds. People capital is often forgotten and fostering this creates true profit at core and long-term success! 3) Consider the lifetime value of the business: Everything you do should stimulate and encourage brand loyalty. The people you hire are your brand. The way you maintain the cleanliness and sanitation of the venue is your brand. The marketing message is a brand. Each time you post something on a social network it "brands" you and trust everytime a guest posts something about their experience it "brands" you good or bad, fair or not.

The first time a guest visits your operation they are 50 percent likely to never return simply because it's still outside of their "habit" cycle, knowing this is a key driver to developing human capital translating key priorities and standards while stepping in to support their best efforts at anytime. If a guest comes back a second time, they are 70 percent likely to return a third time but the service and hospitality must remain level or surpass the last visit.

No matter what, "branding" occurs in a variety of fashions and every message, every interaction must be manicured at core.

4. Treat difficult guests like they are a best friend or family member: Look for their win. In doing so, you can cultivate a new level of appreciation and bottom line patience. The guest is always right no matter what. If the staff is knowledgeable on "why" this is you will earn higher levels of goodwill each and everyday. Some of the most difficult people become the ones who champion your establishment and sing your "brand" to others. In my experience, they also are likely to bring a large party or schedule a catering event down the road. Champion the difficult guest.

5) Coach, Teach and Model...don't train! Training is behavior modification at best. Step into each persons shoes and show them a task or model a desired attitude or behavior. Next, encourage them to add their own creative approach to delivery and support them in their best efforts.

One key I have used is "follow-up." Now this is not a "carrot & stick" goal setting program, it's an authentic on-going dialogue that can happen five shifts in a row or every 30-90-120 days. In my experience, follow-up often and as needed. It sets clear expectations and builds trust. When you teach, model and review in a safe and on-going fashion - you also present the opportunity to learn from the unique talents of your staff.

6) Hire for character, attitude and heart...not experience: Resumes are great. LinkedIn is nice too! But learning to interview while authentically listening to what is being shared is a critical component to hiring people that can compliment the team and become a voice for your brand. Look for the personality and presence you want with your team members and guests.

I have witnessed General Managers and Supervisors hiring because they have a gap! Don't do this! It is better for salaried managers to team up and fill a few gaps or to pay some overtime than to ever hire a body because you have a need. Reward salaried managers who work beyond normal weeky hours for the right reasons!

I have seen one multi-unit supervisor go through over 400 "hires" in two years, do the math...that could be a years worth of advertising dollars or a new kitchen in labor cost!!! This person eventually lost his job at great residual cost to the organization.

7) Don't babysit or coddle the weakest employees: First, too many well-meaning owners and managers are "savers." They view employees as family and coddle people in hopes they will get better. Think about friends on social network or in life who keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over. In business, just as in life, you can only become the "sum average" of everyone and everything you surround yourself with. Be prepared to have tough discussions and get rid of cancerous people even if you think they have "potential." Let them see this potential in themselves.

Being a true friend sometimes means we have to let them go, and in business this is critical. Personally, I have fired many people who I cared about on a very human level and I have followed up on them to see if they were doing alright or if they ever needed to talk. Think about how powerful that can be to your "brand" rather than allowing them to be a drain on your team or customers.

How you interview, hire, respect, value and encourage people is your brand just as much as your menu or uniform. How you terminate employees or follow up on those that have quit is equally telling about your value systems, brand and character.

8) Use Branding & Psychology on your Menu! Don't overwhelm guests with too many options. Remember, it's more important to be "something to someone" rather than "everything to everyone." Don't blow an uncertain trumpet because everyone will be singing a different song or doing a different dance. Unique offerings "brand" and can extend out attitude, energy and your creative passions. Further, placing the most profitable dollar amount per plate menu item in a specific place can not only showcase back of house talents, but also triple daily revenues in some cases.

People have driven to one of my restaurants more than eighty miles in a few cases for a unique dessert offering they heard about for months on social networks. Further, allow your chef to create "features" (don't call them specials), test them, document the recipe and allow all employees to taste it. Next, put it on the tables for one night or a few nights at a time.

In one case, I was able to sell 38 portions of Sea Bass in less than three hours because the chef was excited and the staff loved the energy as well as the taste profile! Not one complaint from the guests who raved about and each dish generated $22 in per plate profit. Think about this: $836 in net profit was achieved on 38 plates. A Kobe Hamburger was $14 at that time with roughly a $10 per plate profit. To achieve the same profit by selling hamburgers the restaurant would need 84 plates or customers (46 more guests). Now add in labor and timing. Meny placement, key offerings and passion creates a profitable brand!

9) Innovate: Every business has "The Best Food" and "The Best Service." Many restaurants source from the same distributors and feature similar menu items and identical bar offerings. What set's you apart? Look at your YELP, FACEBOOK, URBANSPOON and GOOGLE reviews, they will provide a nice cross-section of perception and DO NOT get defensive. Knowledge is power. While paying attention to corporate vision and branding, innovate by using all resources available and try to keep pride out of it.

10) Keep Vision and Target Demographic in Mind ALWAYS: Your "brand" is unique to you. It can't be subject to mood. It can't be subject to the weather. You can't let anyone on staff control this. It's universal. Now, more upscale guests will not respond or react well to coupon mailings. They won't care about a drink "special" but will react favorably to an appropriate priced drink "feature." If you are faced with an elderly couple or family of six and you are a Tapas and Beer type establishment, don't stray from your brand but cater to this guest remembering they are a source of referral business down the road. The entire staff should know not to seat an elderly couple underneath speakers! You can't kill room balance or atmosphere for one table but you can make anyone feel loved and valued.

Personally, I have quickly ran across the street to grab pasta noodles to make a child "butter noodles" in one establishment after explaining the peramaters first. I remained true to vision but also added a little "flavor" to our branding and I am still friends with this family today. Create memorable moments where each guest uniquely stands.


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