In this article: Why running a successful restaurant doesn’t have to be as challenging as you may think, tips on simplifying operations and building a culture of efficiency and confidence.
Running a restaurant is hard work. There’s no denying that. Physically, running a service is demanding, requiring you and your team to be on your feet for 8 plus hours at a time. Plus, once service is over there is cleaning work to be done, prep for the next day, and endless time that can be spent improving and growing your business.
So no, I’m not about to tell you that running a successful restaurant is a walk in the park.
I am going to argue that we have a tendency to make things harder on ourselves than we need to. We overcomplicate systems and panic when we feel like we’re losing control, so we rush to add new systems and hire new people who we think will fix the issues, when in reality we need to take a step back and rework from the ground up - simply!
It’s in our nature to complicate things. We are complex beings, and sometimes our brains make up lots of extra stories about how challenging and hard something must be in order to feed our ego or other areas of our subconscious.
Plus, we work in the hospitality industry where we are constantly listening to peoples’ feedback and criticism of what we do, so things become very loud very quickly if we aren’t too careful.
Running a successful restaurant is complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the more we can streamline systems, reduce the amount of work our teams are doing, and overall just calm the heck down, we see that customers enjoy their experience more, and we free ourselves up for growth in areas we didn’t have time for before.
If you’re currently working in or operating a restaurant that is disorganized and over-complicated, I’m sure you can understand that most days, that headache you have is really not necessary, and not helping anyone either!
Although sometimes it seems like operating at a high level really does require a lot; endless emails, meetings, rewriting of menus, trials of different products, white board systems, checklists, training schedules, continual education for your managers, HR systems for collecting and organizing employee information (see where I’m going here?) - the truth is that it doesn’t.
Remember that you have one goal: to create a space for your guests to enjoy the food and drinks that you take pride in creating. If you are making your product well and giving your team the resources they need to serve your guests well, then you have already met your goal.
Simplifying your restaurant isn’t going to happen overnight, especially if things are especially wild right now and you feel overwhelmed even thinking about the overhaul you want to do! Remember to take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other, trusting that as long as you move in the right direction you will eventually end up where you want to be.
The main steps I like to think about when simplifying operations within a venue are to consolidate your systems, get your management team on the same page, remove toxic team members, and re-train with confidence.
Here is a deeper dive into each of these steps:
Take a look at all of the systems that you use within your venue. This includes POS systems, reservation and guest relation systems, inventory and ordering systems, training systems, hiring and onboarding systems, communication systems, BOH procedure and prep systems, and anything else that might be exclusive to you.
I would suggest writing down all of the systems you use, even if it’s that you use a white board to post 86’d items. Write everything out so you can see clearly, and start to work towards consolidating these systems. Is there one tool you like more that maybe has some extra features you’re not utilizing? Is there a better way to go all around? Can you go paperless somewhere, or use new technology for something you’ve been doing manually?
Just by starting this process of thinking, you will soon find that your systems have become consolidated and simplified for everyone on your team.
Your management team dictates the success of your restaurant. If they are confused, overworked, stressed, or any combination of these things, there is no way that your restaurant can run in a simple, streamlined way.
Invest in some good training and alignment for your managers. Maybe this is something like actual management training that you have everyone complete, or maybe it’s more of a team-building approach where you have different bonding activities and casual meetings where you make sure that your messaging and goals are clear.
Once everyone on your management team is on the same page, you can start to efficiently simplify your restaurant operations.
Once you have new and simplified systems in place, and a management team ready to execute them, you need a support staff that’s top tier.
With the current labor shortage, building and retaining a strong team can be a huge challenge. If there are toxic team members, or individuals who are keeping the team from reaching certain goals, I would encourage you to let them go, even at the risk of being short staffed or having to reduce your hours.
If you do have a solid team, but maybe they need a bit of retraining, take the time to retrain them well. Try not to just throw a ton of information at them, but instead explain your new and improved goals and visions for the venue, and why they are a crucial part of the plan to get there.
Building a culture of simplicity and confidence will dictate just how well you can simplify operations in your venue, and keep them that way! It doesn’t matter how well you and your managers understand something, if the people executing the work don’t understand, you will end up where you started; confused and frustrated!
We know that running a successful restaurant requires a lot of time and energy. We know that it is hard work! We also know how rewarding it is, and we do it because we love to watch people enjoy their experiences with us because we do what we do well.
However, the restaurant industry has a bad habit of over-complicating things! We need to get better at taking a step back, looking at what is and isn't working, and committing to simpler and more efficient ways of working. Not only will our guests thank us, but our team members will enjoy working with us more, and our own quality of life will improve.
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