Moving forward, thinking, acting and operating differently are on people’s minds.  We have no choice right now but to be thinking about sanitation and health related practices.  We have no choice but to take a hard look at our sales and at tightening expenses wherever possible.

There are areas of operating for most restaurants however, that needed attention before all of this that shouldn’t be neglected in the wake of the immediate situation.  There are aspects of our businesses that could have benefited from us thinking differently even before all of this, and this may be the wake up call we needed.

This is an opportunity to move forward in ways that we haven’t before.  Sometimes in business as in life, hitting bottom is an awakening that allows you to see patterns and behaviours that may have been leading you off course even before the pandemic shut down.  If there are problems in your operation that you‘ve been in denial about, this is your best opportunity to address them and leave them behind.

Silver linings

Use this as the opportunity it is to rebuild from the ground up, with clarity, wisdom and experience that you didn’t have years ago.  You also now have a clearer picture of where you are vs. where you may want or need to be.

A particularly strong effect this can have on us is that of humility and compassion.  We realize that not everything is so straightforward, and that maybe we’ve even judged others harshly.  If we didn’t already know, it should teach us that we still have a lot to learn and always will.  As a restaurant operator/manager, you’re a teacher and you will always be a student.  The only person that learns more than a good student is a good teacher.

The best contributor to us thinking differently and the ultimate silver lining of all this is realizing what is truly important.  Just as valuable a lesson is to realize what may not be so important and purge those items and activities.  This is an excellent time to create or rewrite your goals in business and in life; to create or rewrite your mission statement.  A fresh outlook will give you new energy and drive your success.

Get angry!

That’s right – we need to get angry at our own capacity to accept mediocrity.  As an industry, we’ve had a tolerance for mediocrity for far too long.  There are practices and poor habits that are perpetuated by staff and tolerated by management every day.  If you’ve ever witnessed or tolerated any of these perpetuated by our industry, it’s time to get angry.  Use that anger to eradicate indifference by the wrong people being put in and/or left in the wrong jobs.

An attitude of hospitality should be the biggest priority of any shift manager and a prerequisite for any front of the house job.  If you’ve been working with any staff or manager that doesn’t seem to get this, they need to start thinking differently or they need to find another line of work.  We can and need to do better.

A restaurant guest should never have to…

  • Be greeted by a host or server that is less than welcoming
  • Be greeted by a manager that conveys the stress of something else they’re contending with
  • Overhear a conversation between servers complaining about a guest, a bad tip, or a fellow employee
  • Walk half way to their table when the host drops the menus and walks away, without waiting for them to reach the table, no matter how slowly the guest walks
  • Have to navigate the menu without any direction or invitation from their server to enjoy particular items that may enhance their experience
  • Arrive at a dirty table and have to wait to have it cleaned and reset in front of them
  • Wait in a lineup without being acknowledged, welcomed and given some assurance about their wait time
  • Be served soup without a spoon to eat it or wait for condiments while their food gets cold
  • Not have the opportunity to order dessert/coffee or have to wait long periods for the bill because their server has all but disappeared once the food is delivered
  • Experience a poorly handled complaint or concern, that does nothing to ensure that guest has a reason to want to return to your restaurant

The success to eradicating poor practices and the indifference that’s at the root of it rests entirely on how we as leaders set the example.  If you don’t have a boss now, chances are you once did, and you were (are) always aware of when they’re in the room.  The same is true for your staff.  If you set the example, they’ll respect you for it and will follow it, if not immediately, then certainly over time.

What will you do differently when you reopen?

Let’s commit to being consummately professional in all aspects of the business; to operate in a way that exudes hospitality and caring about our guests and the communities we serve; to commit to sales and service excellence that has our guests visiting often and helping us build our business through word of mouth.  Let’s respect this time as the wake up call that it is.

I have a huge amount of respect for the professionals in the restaurant world, and recognize that there are more qualified, experienced and forward thinking operators than ever before.  If you already operate with the utmost professionalism and with a positive countenance that portrays and conveys a commitment to excellence, then you are likely weathering this crisis better than most and will emerge better for it.  For those that have yet to achieve or even attempt to strive for true excellence, this is a new beginning, so let’s commit to being better and being committed to continual improvement.