June 15, 2024

Matthew Ling was a candidate for the position of managing three full-service restaurants earlier this year. He had big ideas about how he could improve all three businesses.

Matt was a seasoned manager of high-volume restaurants and bars. But with three different locations, each with a distinct concept, all within walking distance of a top 10 U.S. entertainment and sports arena, Matt saw an opportunity to implement some employee training ideas, customer growth, and menu optimization. Matt was “pumped.” “With three instead of one restaurant, there were many potential ways to increase value.”

Matt was engulfed in minutiae from the very beginning. You start the day with a big goal, but as soon as you walk through the door, you are pulled in ten different directions. Your staff needs you. You have customers to check up on. There is a problem. “All of these things must be addressed,” he added. “But the work to build a business is equally important.” It cannot be easy to learn how to do everything.

Matt discovered that he needed to start small and show that strategic work was working to win the owners’ trust. His most significant revelation was that he had to set the right goals to ensure that all his efforts on and off the floor added to more incredible things. He said, “I’m very knowledgeable about the industry and had some ideas of things we could do before I began.” Matt explained how his goals changed once he started working in the restaurant.

He received feedback from the owner of the restaurant.

Matt told us that “their goals are YOUR goals.” Be sure to understand what their priorities are. Even when made with good intentions, assumptions can be harmful. This is because restaurant owners see growth in different ways. It is their right to set objectives. They may also have an insight into their business and plans.

Matt said, “Don’t waste your time trying to get more people in for a happy hour if they want you to focus on building corporate relationships for the lunch catering.” Matt advised that while more happy hour customers may be excellent, your focus should be on increasing lunch catering revenue and relationships.

What if there are no strategic goals? Matt explained that if given a general plan like “grow revenue,” now is the time to present some ideas. Priorities include increasing party bookings, increasing unique customer volume, increasing return visitors, or ramping up spending per visit. Offer your suggestion if the owner still needs to be committed. Confirm that you will work on this goal over the next few months or quarters.

He was working with his counterpart in the back of the house.

Matt’s restaurant group has a separate manager for the back of the house. Matt understood that he needed to work closely with his counterpart from the back of the place to be successful. First, both sides of the kitchen need to work together to achieve great results. Matt explained that “many great ideas can be locked away in the kitchen.” Communicating regularly with employees and back-of-house leaders is essential to get their insights and ensure they are reflected in your goals.

Matt explained that he regularly communicated with the manager of the back of the house during the regular operation of his restaurants. However, he felt it essential to have a separate discussion to discuss the future, owners’ goals, and missed opportunities. They had dinner together to discuss ideas. Matt recalled that “he told me a buffet station could be an excellent ‘express option’ and a good way to test out new menu ideas.” I knew that my conversation with the owner made me realize it was a great way to increase lunch volume at our location while also growing our catering business. It was an excellent idea that ticked many boxes and was unique to the manager of the back-of-house’s vision of potential opportunities.

He collected feedback from his employees.

Matt understands that his employees are the ones who run the restaurant. “The servers are always listening to what customers say, whether complaining about a particular item or raving that our pizza is superior to the Italian version,” said Matt. Matt regularly checks in with counter staff, bartenders, and servers to see how the customers respond. He said this also helps the employees realize they’re not just a vehicle for food and drink. “I tell them they are important advisors for me” to run the business better. Matt said that asking the question makes his employees better problem-solvers and listeners, as they relate each customer interaction with the company’s overall success.

Talking with employees about the process is essential to determine what you want. When something breaks, employees feel it the most. They may experience this directly or deal with customer complaints if things go wrong.

He was focused as he walked.

Getting into the details of your business pays off. Matt said that when he started to focus on the business objectives of the restaurants, the time he spent resolving issues with staff, greeting customers and backfilling the team, hauling merchandise, approving discounts, and managing complaints became more critical. He said, “I love data, and this is all data.” He sees this as a way to gather information on how to improve the operations of his restaurant and understand potential risks and opportunities.

He pulled out reports.

Matt said he felt it essential to let Clover’s reports speak for themselves. He said that the words “tell an important story.” The key to restaurant reporting is to think of the data as a person. He said you need a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve with the data to get lost. Matt suggests creating a list of data points you will want to review daily, such as revenue and visits. You should also know what questions you need to answer.

One exception: Explore your reporting system and see available data types. This can help you define questions you might not have considered asking. Matt said he spent much time looking at Clover reports and examining the available data.

He read the reviews and held his breath.

Matt turned to the Yelp review for a candid insight into restaurant operations. He said he had to “hold my breath” the first time he dived into studies but quickly realized they were treasures. The positive feedback from good reviews helped confirm what was going well. What about the negative reviews? As for the bad reviews?

Matt reported that ownership gave him great advice on how to make a difference. Matt translated them into goals so he could make a plan, track his progress, assess the impact of these goals on the business, and report back to ownership.

Establish a restaurant’s strategic goal.

Ask the owner or executive management about their restaurant goals. Take some time to determine your goals if you are the restaurant owner.

Set a period when you’ll ingest feedback to help inform your goals. Matt decided to do the work in one week.

Talk to your colleagues in management, as well as employees and clients. When walking around the floor, be mindful. Read reviews. Reports can help you answer questions about your business. All these inputs can be used to refine and establish secondary goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *