You can’t build a pyramid from the top down. A house without a foundation will not stand. And a business without fundamentals firmly entrenched and dutifully executed can wither and shrink as small as the period that ends this sentence. So what are the critical building blocks of successful foodservice operation in the second decade of the 21st Century? Besides luck, pluck, heart, nerve (and possibly a side of abracadabra), here’s my list of the essentials:
Focus. Focus is not just “wanting to win,” it’s the willingness to prepare to win. Focus is not just being committed, it means being disciplined. What do the best foodservice operators focus first on? The things they can control. Not the things they can’t. Make the things that won’t change in your company—Quality, People, Culture, Training—ever stronger, ever better.
Build Strong Teams. Everything starts with hiring. If you don’t have the right discipline and systems in place to assure that only the most dedicated and most passionate and most talented people are allowed onboard, you put a weighty (and unnecessary) daily burden on your frontline and multiunit supervisors. It forces them to under-lead and over-manage. You don’t build “business,” you build people. People build business.
Serve Better. In case you haven’t noticed, the top-rated customer service organizations are now online companies like Amazon and Zappos, not traditional brick-and-mortar stores with a face-to-face presence. What happened? For one thing, these online companies anticipated and resolved 90% of their customer service challenges before customers visit the site. But brick-and-mortar operations like restaurants are dependent on a Freudian Smorgasbord of people and personalities for their service delivery, not the mathematical algorithms that characterize Web customers. The thing is, the Internet is digital, but people are analog. To serve better, know that guests don’t want to be treated like customers, they want to be treated like people.
Sell More. Think about all the different ways a business can gross more money: unit expansion, acquisitions, selling new franchises, going public, selling assets, etc. But the best route to a healthy balance sheet is by simply 1) acquiring more customers and 2) raising same-store sales. Do so with great service, smart selling and focusing the outcome of every transaction on a repeat visit. Everything you don’t sell has a triple cost. You pay to buy it, you pay to store it, you pay to throw it away.
Spend Less. All money is not created equal. $100 in sales is $100 less taxes and expenses. $100 in savings is $100.
Always Be Marketing. How and when you advertise, who you hire, how you serve, what you sell all are functions of marketing. Since most every other Fundamental is dependent on marketing (without customers, service and selling and hiring are irrelevant), smart leaders approach marketing as a philosophy, not a department.
Out-Teach the Competition. Teach everyone on your team something new every shift. Hire people with a bias for learning. And teach your team members how to think, not just what to do.
Lead Smart. Leadership is not a personality trait so much as the ability to master variable skill sets and then knowing why, when and how to apply them. All leadership is situational. Smart leaders are prepmasters: since you don’t really know on which day success will occur, you have to be ready every single shift.
Execute. There are three elements of effective execution: 1) Habitual Consistency: daily and steady application of the Fundamentals, eliminating barriers to execution along the way. 2) Discipline: holding yourself and your team accountable for excellence—and results. And 3) Focus: knowing where and how the Fundamentals have to be applied if anything is to be executed: The Shift. Which brings us full-circle to the first Fundamental.
There was a time when focusing on the Fundamentals really mattered. That time is called now.
This blog was excerpted from Jim Sullivan’s new book Fundamentals: 9 Ways to Be Brilliant at the Basics of Business available at Amazon. Come see Jim’s workshop on this topic at the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show on Monday May 7 at 10 am.
If you haven't already registered for the NRA Show, go to www.restaurant.org/show. In addition to Twitter @NRAShow and Facebook, you can also join the NRA Show on Linkedin and YouTube.