R Magazine — When you run a restaurant, every day is an adventure. Your business depends on your creativity and innovation, enticing your guests with the best version of each new dish you serve. However, that creativity can only flourish when you back it up with a strong business plan and a dependable revenue stream. It’s a constant balancing act, and it’s up to you to solve it on your feet.
Fortunately, you’re in good company. The challenges that you face every day have time-tested solutions. Here are 4 tips to make the job of managing your restaurant easier every day.
- Great Service Means Great People
Your service is only as good as your team. From chefs to dishwashers, hosts to delivery drivers, and servers to bussers, everyone should be committed to the success of the business. In addition, they should know how and why their job is an important part of that success. Make sure to hire people who fit with your mission – and keep in mind that this means something different for every restaurant.
Inside the Box Café in Tampa, FL, is a nonprofit restaurant dedicated to fighting homelessness. In addition to a running restaurant with multiple locations, Inside the Box offers a Culinary Arts Program, which employs people working to overcome homelessness. Through this program, they gain valuable job experience, while giving back to the community through the nonprofit. The same team of driven, talented employees might not have enough experience to wait tables at a 5-star steakhouse in Manhattan. By the same logic, the best bartender in the world might have a difficult time working in a quick-service restaurant like McDonald’s. Whatever your business goals may be, be sure to seek out the team members that can help you achieve them.
- Eyes on the Prize
It’s very important to have clear, smart goals, so you and your team have something to aim toward. Time management experts define SMART goals as: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. In the restaurant industry, here’s what that looks like:
- Specific: Make sure your goals are clear and simple. “Make more money” is not a specific goal, while “increase revenue by 25%” fits the bill perfectly.
- Measurable: In a business setting, it’s easy to set measurable goals. For instance, it’s better to aim toward “wasting 10% less inventory” than it is to just “improve inventory practices.” Using a Point of Sale system to track your growing profits ensures that you always have an accurate measurement of how your progress improves your bottom line.
- Achievable: Know your own limits. Every business owner knows how to dream big – if you didn’t have that skill, you’d be doing a different job. The most effective way to achieve those dreams is by taking them one step at a time. Consider “opening a second location this year,” instead of jumping directly to “becoming a national chain ASAP.”
- Relevant: For most restaurant owners, the goal to “turn a profit from online orders year-round” is relevant to your business. However, if you run an ice cream shop in Alaska, it’s probably not your first priority. Think about which goals make the most sense for your cuisine and brand. Your immediate plans should be informed by the big picture of your business.
- Timely: In our industry, everything is seasonal – from vegetables to marketing efforts. If your burger joint sees a major influx of job applications from high school students May, schedule your staff training for June. Gift cards make great holiday presents – so why not set a goal to sell them in October and November? Scheduling your goals, and knowing when they need to be completed, will keep your business growing all year round.
- Manage Expectations
Running a restaurant means working with people. Whether you’re a restaurant owner, manager, host, or server, chances are that you spend most of your time at work interacting with other employees and guests. Every one of those people has expectations for how their experience will go. The guests are expecting great food and great service; the chef expects to receive legible tickets that correspond to menu items; the servers expect to get the support they need from their managers.
Clearly communicating about expectations not only makes everyone’s job easier; it also keeps the customer satisfied. Imagine your restaurant is twice as busy as you anticipated during the lunch rush. What a wonderful problem to have! When this happens, you should let hungry customers know there will be a longer wait, in order to minimize walkaways and keep your guests engaged. Table management software makes sure diners are informed of wait times via text message, leaving you and your staff free to focus on other tasks.
Good communication is also a must for improving employee morale. Keep your servers informed of any changes that impact them. Whether you’re making menu updates or adding seasonal hours, they’ll want to know as far in advance as possible. It’s much easier to enlist an employee’s help when they feel like their input really matters. Listen to your staff’s feedback, and implement any ideas that will improve your bottom line.
- Focus on Flow
No matter how successful you become, you never really arrive. Great business owners are always thinking about the next big thing – whether it’s a renovated dining room, another location, or more foot traffic. The great thing about the restaurant industry is that there’s always room for growth. This is especially true if you and your management team focus on flow.
Flow refers to several aspects of running a restaurant. There’s the constant flow of foot traffic, with guests walking in, servers and hosts moving about the space, and delivery drivers coming and going. There’s the flow of inventory, where you predict how much you’ll need every week, and find creative ways to use anything that’s left over. There’s even the flow of your staff. Since the restaurant industry has such a high employee turnover rate, it’s important to plan regular trainings, and become an expert at hiring great new team members.
Use technology to track your progress over time. There are a growing number of options on the market; for example, you might invest in a Point of Sale system that can track sales, manage inventory, and handle staff scheduling. The more information you have, the better you’ll understand which aspects of business improve your bottom line. Remember that running a successful restaurant is a marathon, not a sprint. Use data to inform your big decisions, knowing that any investment will take time to pay off.
Restaurant management is dynamic. As your business grows, so does your job description. It’s important for restaurateurs at every level to seek out the tools they need to streamline workflow. Develop a strategy that is just as dynamic as your business, and you’ll always be able to balance the creativity and reliability that make your restaurant a success.