This post was last updated on Jul 08, 2020.
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Running a restaurant is tough, and it's only getting more complex. Sometimes you need a hand — some guidance from a mentor, a business coach, or maybe a trusted advisor.
If you find yourself seeking outside consul for your restaurant, there are few things you should understand to get the most of the relationship. First, you should recognize which kind of restaurant you are. There are basically three categories that restaurants fall into:
- Those in trouble.
- Those that are content.
- Those that want to grow.
Here's what you need to know about all of these restaurant types and how to identify the best restaurant consultant for your business.
1) The Ones in Trouble
These restaurants need some outside input to stop the internal damage that's growing within their business. The problem is they usually need help, like, right now. For some, this can be done with a few tweaks to marketing and that can help take the pressure off.
You see, all "business" problems are really just people problems in disguise, and it take a great restaurant consultant a while to uncover the real issues.
Sometimes, consultants can affect change with open communication to turn a business around. If the restaurant owner has waited too long and contacted a consultant as a "Hail Mary," then the discussion shifts to how to close the business down in a way that works best for all involved.
2) Those That Are Content
The restaurants that are comfortable or content with how things are can sometimes be the most difficult to work with and usually never contact a consultant.
Remember: Being in the comfort zone is never a place you want to be.
Why? Because markets change. You can coast along being content while new competition will enter your market and slowly start taking market share from you. Some restaurants are so aloof to the changes in their market that they get blindsided one day and quickly drop into the category mentioned earlier: the ones in trouble.
Most consultants stay clear of these types of restaurants because they have no real desire to implement change, but it's often helpful for a consultant to coach on the opportunities available.
3) Those That Want to Grow
These restaurants are a consultant's dream client. They are doing well, yet they feel a pull to do even better. These restaurants understand that consulting and coaching is an investment that will return two-fold.
They seek to fine tune everything like a high performance athlete! The things that separates gold medal winner and silver medalist in the Olympics is sometimes just a fraction of a second. High performance restaurants know this and they seek to maintain their advantage.
These are the restaurants that have a learning culture - not a training culture. They seek self-improvement to dominate their market. They invest in the three all consulting focuses on: People, Process, and Products.
How to Find a Great Consultant
If your restaurant is either in inspiration or desperation mode, here's what you should look for when finding a restaurant consultant to help you improve your business.
Know this: a professional restaurant consultant's only drive and purpose is to improve your business in a way that works long term for you. If in your initial meeting your restaurant wants you to settle for average performance, send them away.
1) Require Real World Experience
Sad to say that anyone can claim to be a restaurant consultant today. There are "consultants" who stalk the internet with very little credibility...except that they worked as a bartender, cook, or server for a few years and think that's all it takes.
Personally, I think that a consultant should have restaurant ownership experience. You need someone who truly understands the pressure of being a restaurant owner - not just an employee. Most (former) employees may know their specific job very well, but not all of them understand all the roles that the position of restaurant owner encompasses.
Another question you need to ask a consultant you're considering is this: Tell me about your failures. If a consultant cannot be open and take ownership for the faults they have had, stay clear. Failures are truly the greatest lessons in life and while you do want a consultant with a solid track record of results, you also want someone who have make mistakes and taken those lessons to help others.
2) Look 'Em Up Online
The easiest thing to do is a Google search for the consultant and their track record. See what comes up. A reputable consultant with have quite a few hits on search engines.
Check out their social media pages too! Do they appear to be what they claim to be? How about their LinkedIn Profile? Do they have recommendations and endorsements?
Keep in mind - most of the great consultants rarely advertise. Their business is mostly from referral. Social proof is powerful and having someone you trust recommend a restaurant consultant goes a long way.
3) Make Sure They Are Well-Rounded
When looking for your future restaurant consultant you will want to explore:
- which areas of your business need the most assistance, and...
- does that consultant have the skillset to take your project to the next level.
If your business need improvement in the culinary side, you'll need a consultant with culinary experience...real culinary experience. They should have held a position as an executive chef for many years. You will find people out there that can design a killer menu, yet when it comes to setting that menu up to be executed in your business they can't pull it off.
Really outstanding consultants actually work with other outstanding consultants to bring a wealth of skills to a project. Remember that outstanding people associate with other outstanding people and they want the same thing: to make your restaurant better.
4) Ask for Deliverables
Qualified consultants will give you a list of actionable items and will give you what are known as deliverables. These are the items they promised to bring to the project.
Be weary of consultants that do not offer up a solid plan with actionable steps and deadlines. A consultant who says that they just “go with the flow” is not a true professional. An outstanding restaurant consultant will have done their due diligence on you. They will know more about you than you think. They will have a plan.
Now, that plan my alter and change once they get into the project. However, being able to adapt without losing sight of the end result is the mark of a highly-qualified restaurant consultant.
All qualified consultants have a process map that they use. Just like when you build a house, you have a set of plans on how to get from the drawing board to actually moving in and living in the building. The consultant should be able to walk you through their process step-by-step. If they cannot explain it to you in clear and concise communication, their chance of success is very slim.
5) Find a Personable Match
Make sure you spend some quality time getting to know the consultant before you bring them onboard.
Just like in all relationships, not everyone is meant to be together. You definitely want to find a consultant that you can talk to openly and with full transparency.
Don’t keep secrets from your consultant. The consultant-client relationship is one built upon trust. It’s far better to be up front and give them full disclosure than have them find out halfway into the project. A professional consultant is not there to judge you. They are there to help you. Maybe you’ve made some bad decisions - did you learn from them, or are you still doing them?
When you find a consultant that is a good match you’ll will find that you will have open conversations that will move you and your business forward. A great consultant will ask you challenging questions that force you to search for quality solutions. There will be times you might not like the process and will even feel a little uncomfortable. That’s good. We know that the truth will set you free. It’s just that sometimes it might upset you first.
Choosing the Best Restaurant Consultant
If your restaurant is in trouble, or if you just want to improve your operations, getting a consultant is a worthwhile investment.
Restaurants do get better when the people in them can grow, too, and sometimes you need a gentle nudge to push you in the right direction.