3 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Plan Isn't Working

By: Donald Burns

7 Minute Read

Jan 16, 2018

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restaurant plan

All good restaurateurs make a restaurant plan - but what happens when that plan isn't working out?

When you open a new restaurant, people will flock to check out your new venture. You'll have visions of grandeur about your restaurant being everyone's new favorite place.

Then, the people slowly stop coming back and sales start to drop. Doubt sets in.

If you have ever owned, managed, or even thought of opening a restaurant, you need to accept that doubt will pop up when things get tough. The critics in your head love to make an appearance when things don't go as planned.

That’s life, and as tough as it is to hear, there is a huge obstacle in the way of getting your restaurant to where you want it to be. That obstacle looks back at you every morning in the mirror.

This might be a hard pill to swallow for some. However, if you truly want to excel in this industry and reach your potential, then grab a big glass of water and get ready to choke this down.

Your Restaurant Plan Needs Adjustment

The greatest strength you have is your ability to change. If you want to keep getting the same results, just keep doing the same things. It does not take an Einstein to figure out that when you are not getting the results you want, then you need to adjust your restaurant plan.

The hard part is admitting that things are not working the way they are now. Maybe - just maybe - you made a few mistakes with your restaurant plan.

But don't get down - mistakes are your greatest opportunity for growth. Embrace them.

Adjustment #1: Brand Positioning

Is your brand positioned properly? Positioning is a key element to successful marketing. It is how your restaurant is placed in the mind of the guest. To truly succeed, you might need to adjust how you see your brand in your current market.

There is a vision of your restaurants that you have and there is vision of your restaurant that your guests have. Somewhere in between is the restaurant it has to become.

Are you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? Sure, with enough marketing money you can force your positioning into a market. It’s much easier to adjust to the market instead of having the market adjust to you.

Some people see a successful restaurant as being lucky. Some do when they position their brand properly and find it connects with their market. If your restaurant is not doing the numbers you'd like, then it’s time to think about how your brand is perceived by your market.

Adjustment #2: Product Mix

Your product mix report is a gold mine of information if you take the time to extract the data.

Smart restaurant operators are always aware of how their menu items are selling, because this can impact your product mix. Let's say you want to be a restaurant that is known for its delicious steaks. However, when you look at your product mix report from your POS, you see that most guests buy your fried chicken and meatloaf. Does that mean you stop selling high-end steaks? Not necessarily. But it means you should take a closer look at your product mix.

Here is the real secret: you need to use that information from your sales reports.

No one likes to hear that maybe their restaurant plan needs to be adjusted. It hurts the pride and ego. But would you rather be right or be successful?

Your Staff Needs Replacement

Water seeks its own level. Like attracts like. They are a lot of metaphors that convey this message.

There are also quite a few reasons your team is holding your brand back.

Reason #1: You do not have a culture that attracts top talent.

This is another hard concept for some restaurant owners to hear. Do you treat your team in the same manner as you want them to treat your guests?

Your team will treat your guest the way to treat them.

This is called modeling, and it’s hard wired in our DNA. We learn our behaviors from others. As the owner or leader, your behavior is the example that your team will adopt.

Reason #2: You had some bad hires...and you kept them.

We all make mistakes in hiring, but it's up to us to own up to those mistakes, admit there is a problem, and let the employee go if they're stuck in their ways.

Now, if you are being the leader you should be and they still are not performing to your standards, then you have a team member that has some behavioral issues. That can be extremely hard to change. Truth be told, some people just are not a good fit for your brand.

In most markets, there are a few restaurant options to work for. It’s better to let those that are not a good fit to work for another restaurant that could be a better fit for them.

Letting people go is never easy. Especially in this business, we tend to be around our staff for extended periods of time. Lines can become blurred between friends and coworkers. That makes it difficult for some to discipline and enforces standards. If you want to be a real success in this business, then you need to separate the two.

It’s far better to let go of an employee that has become your friend who might not be a good team fit instead of letting poor performance continue and put your brand - and your friendships - at risk.

Not everyone is a good team fit. Understand that and have respect for the welfare of your brand.

Your Need to Address Your Biggest Fears

What do you fear? Be honest. The truth will set you free (after it really pisses you off).

A lot of restaurant owners and managers overcompensate to avoid facing their fears. Your fears can keep you stuck and held down from reaching your potential. Even the wise Yoda reminded young Luke Skywalker, “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

Overcoming your fears is one of the most important lessons anyone must face if they are going to maximize their true potential.

Restaurants truly become better when the people in them become better people. So take a minute to reflect and think about what you really fear. This exercise can be terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a negative attitude because of our fears. Maybe sales are not quite where you want them to be. Perhaps you lost a few key employees to the competition. Or maybe a couple bad online reviews just put you into a funk.

Whatever it is, you need to let it go.

Negativity breeds negativity. As a leader within the organization it is your duty to maintain a positive attitude.

Your attitude has a contagious effect on the culture of your brand. That culture has a trickle-down effect to everything from team performance, to ambiance, and eventually the guest experience. When this clouds our minds, we forget that in the restaurant industry we don’t really sell food and beverage.

We sell an experience.

If your restaurant plan is not working the way you want it, then you need to modify and update your plan. Things change. Markets change. Your restaurant must change too. Just remember that all change starts with you.

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