I think one of the biggest reasons so many restaurants fail within the first three years is because owners do too little or they do too much. It is easy as a restaurant owner to want to do everything yourself, from the cooking to the marketing to the bookkeeping to repairs and maintenance. However, trying to do everything, whether out of financial concern or simply because you don’t think anyone can do it “right” will quickly run you and possibly your business into the ground. Remember, you are a restaurant owner, not a superhero. You can’t do everything and be everywhere at the same time.
Day In The Life Of A Restaurant Owner
Here is a common scenario on any given weekday at any given restaurant:
The owner is prepping for lunch (to save labor cost, of course). He gets called out of the kitchen for a phone call by one of the wait-staff. It is a telemarketer. He wastes five minutes on the phone explaining that he does not need a deluxe immersion blender at the moment.
The bookkeeper spies the owner out of the kitchen and calls him into the back office. She has a question about last night’s paperwork. The owner spends fifteen minutes trying to sort out tips that don’t match their credit card receipts (even though the wait staff should not have been allowed to go home with mismatched paperwork).
Finally, the restaurant owner starts back to the kitchen when a local fundraising group arrives, seeking a donation. Who can say no to the Girl Scouts/ Boy Scouts/ Jimmy Fund/ Make a Wish Foundation/ Middle School Track Team? Or any of the other various groups that ask for donations on an almost daily basis. So he takes another ten minutes making out a check and getting a tax deduction form and returning it to the office to the bookkeeper, who has another question about last weeks liquor order.
Meanwhile….Customers are now starting to trickle in for lunch. Because the owner has been dealing with every single item thrown at him, he has not prepped for lunch. Which means when things get busy in the dining room, the kitchen will get backed up and customers will leave unhappy. Get the picture?
As a restaurant owner, it is imperative that you learn to JUST SAY NO! No, I can’t help you with that at this moment. No, I can’t take a call right now. No, you will have to wait a few minutes.
Take steps to avoid common restaurant owner pitfalls
So, how could this restaurant owner keep his customers happy and still manage his business? With these simple steps:
1. Learn to delegate tasks to others (like the staff he hired).
2. Learn to prioritize tasks.
3. Have clear guidelines that all staff is expected to follow.
Let’s take a look at that scenario one more time, avoiding the pitfalls of the other day.
In the kitchen, the Prep Cook is doing the lunch prep. Of course, this means the restaurant owner is paying the cook. But sometimes is more cost efficient to pay someone else then try to do it yourself. All the prep cook has to do is prep and get ready for lunch. He won’t be dashing in and out of the kitchen for phone calls and impromptu meetings. Lunch will be ready to go when customers arrive.
Telemarketers continue to call, almost hourly during the workday. But the restaurant owner doesn’t have to deal with them, because of the policy that wait staff should just take a message.
The restaurant owner reviewed the paperwork policy with the staff, including the night manager and bartender, who collect the server’s money and credit card receipts at the end of the night. No one is to be dismissed until their paperwork matches 100%. Now the restaurant owner doesn’t have to pay his bookkeeper to try and figure out the paperwork, nor does he have to waste time doing it as well. And all the other questions the bookkeeper has? She knows that the restaurant owner will meet with her each day at 2:00 pm (after the lunch rush) to go over them. Now she can also be more productive since she won’t be chasing her boss all over the place.
Remember the fundraising group? Thanks to a new policy, there is a standard amount for the first ten groups who ask for a donation every month. Each group gets $20.00. Once the $200 mark is met, that is it for that month. Groups are asked to return the next month if they would like a donation. The wait staff can track any donations and receipts right in a handy binder next to the cash register or POS system.
So there you have it. Simple steps to becoming a more productive restaurant owner. Hang up your cape and learn to delegate, prioritize and organize instead.