34 things i have learned about the restaurant business



1. We are all sensitive about things that go in our mouth. – That’s what makes the restaurant business so interesting.  It’s also why we freak out when there’s a hair in our food because we’re thinking “I almost put that inside me!”


2.Great managers and leaders can both teach as well as “do”. – It takes more time and effort to teach people how to do things but you’ll appreciate it in the long term when you’re able to see your family more than once a week, and relax on your day off.


3. It’s about what happens in the restaurant not the office. – Numbers and reports make us feel safe for some reason, but you’ll learn so much more about your business by hanging with your customers and crew.  Hopefully they’re more fun too.


4. Discounting does not build loyalty. Loyalty is built through great food and customer service. – Most people that take advantage of discounts leave when the discounts are over.  Like party guests when the free booze runs out.  If what you’re offering is good people will pay for it.


5. The better you treat your staff the harder they’ll work – If you invest in your employees by educating them about food (wine and cocktails if you serve them) they will pay you back with loyalty and higher sales.  If you give them a safe and fun environment to work in they will enjoy coming in to work and make more money for you.


6.  There are more ways to compensate people beyond their hourly wage and tips. – You’re not just competing against other restaurants food and concept but their service too, and all restaurants have to pay people. If all you do is the status quo then you’re going to be hiring wage flunkies.


7.  Clean bathrooms usually equals a clean restaurant. – I learned this from a food critic by the name of Elmer Dills.  My personal spin on this is, as a customer if the things you see aren’t clean imagine what the things out of your view look like.  Then leave.


8. Always start a conversation with a smile. – Smiles put your customers at ease and help them feel comfortable.  But a normal smile not one of those ear to ear grins…those just creep people out.


9. We learn from our failures and upset customers. – When a customer is upset.  Resist the urge to choke them with their plate of fettuccine.  Even if they’re blaming you for all that’s wrong in the world, if you listen carefully you’ll realize all they want is to be heard.  If you listen to them you can fix what is actually wrong instead of just comp’ing their meal to shut them up (Which really makes your servers upset by the way).  Take time to think about what could have been done to avoid the situation and you’ll probably learn how to improve your business in some way.


10. The customer is not always right. – Possibly the most hated sentence in any business as though that would ever motivate anyone to do anything.  However, there is a way to make sure none of your customers leave unhappy.


11. If you eliminated all the difficult or unpleasant customers you’d be out of business. – Saying “no” is a skill.  Say it too often and you’ll lose too much.


12. Shrinkage is a nice way to say stealing.


13. Do regular inventory in the bar. – It’s where you see the most shrinkage


14. Cheaper is not better. – Over time your customers will figure out that you’re using crappier ice cream.


15. The restaurant business is not any riskier than any other business. – You need three things to be successful: Great food, great service, and good business sense.  A lot of people go in to the restaurant business with only two out of three at best.


16. It takes a village. – It’s a mistake to think that you can be owner, manager, bartender, and server.  You can wear multiple hats in the short term if needed, but doing it for the long term just sucks.  Who wants to do things that suck?


17. If it is your first restaurant…start small. – Carl’s Jr. started as a hot dog cart.


18. Overall the health department is a good thing. – At times the health department can come off like the Spanish Inquisition but I have seen first hand how they improve cleanliness and thus food quality.  Also, I’ve worked in restaurants without health department checks.  Not.  Pleasant.


19.  Team serving seems to be the best. – When servers have to pool their tips they are more motivated to help each other.  So that one low performing server might get better instead being left to die alone in a four table section.


20. You shouldn’t have to work 60 hours a week to be successful. – With all the new technology and strategy available I almost feel like work slave hours is a sign you’re doing something wrong.  Think about your restaurant like you would raising a child.  The idea is to make them as self sufficient as possible so they can be successful on their own.  A sign you’re getting it right is that the restaurant runs just as well when you’re away as it does when you’re there.  If you think that it’s not possible for that to happen, that’s your ego talking.  Trust me no one is that important.


21. As a manager, if you’re burning out, hire better people. – Read number 2 again…and probably number 20 as well.


22. Bartending is the best job in the restaurant.


23. Managers should play the bad guy not the staff. – Most servers appreciate a manager who helps them out when a customer gets upset. Besides if the food is made incorrectly no one is expecting the manager to march the chef out (hopefully) to explain.  Why does the server have to be the fall guy?


24. Managers should look at the big picture but don’t disregard the details. – That little piece of trash isn’t so important except for when it is (I know…mind blowing).


25. It’s supposed to be fun (The world doesn’t need more cynics).


26. Maintain a well-kept journal. – But remember if it’s for work, keep it about work and not that weird dream that you had last night.


27.  Signs should not replace opportunities for engagement. – When I go to a nice restaurant I rarely see a bunch of signs explaining things.  When I see a bunch of signs explaining things it makes me think the managers and crew got tired of talking to the customer.


28.  Teach the servers to try not to look at their tips until the end of the night. – They’ll live longer.  If they’re good then the money will work out.


29. There’s no excuse for a surly bartender…it’s a cliché that needs to end.


30. You need someone special at the host stand too. – First impressions being what they are.


31. Build your business through your customers. – It takes longer but it also last longer.


32. The restaurant world is surprisingly small. – If you’re going to quit your  restaurant job for another…it helps to remember that.


33.  When you work with a great team they seem like family.


34.  There will always be success in restaurants because people will always have to eat and drink.



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