Awesome Restaurant Marketing Ideas!

Make Your Own Restaurant Rule Book

Posted by Michael Hartzell on Sat, Feb 02, 2013

restaurantrulesA large restaurant company will have a book of rules which is so thick that no one is able to remember page 234 or what is supposed to happen every 89 days on leap years.  The restaurateur with one or two locations may not have a rule book which leaves the staff with no direction and no expectations. 

Both businesses claim to have similar goals, lead teams and have a marketing system in place to build sales.

Both scenarios can create barriers to success and will hurt the reputation of the restaurant.

Success is certainly not about rules but without a set of standards, large groups of people will dishonor themselves, their families and the company they work for.   There is not a deliberate or purposeful attempt to do harm; it is more based on Hardin's tragedy of the commons where the consequences are poor when groups of people are left to their own device.

Thus we think of rules as a defensive measure to control the events to avoid calamities that are so common in an ever fluctuating environment.  The problem with most rules is they are not offensive in nature but defensive.  “Protect the assets” is certainly a high priority but when lopsided to only protect assets, there is little time or energy left to go on the offense and create sales. 

Banks finally learned this years ago.  Once upon a time bank tellers were required to stay as long as it took after hours to balance their banks to zero (While on the clock).   The amount of variance was not relevant and if it took three hours to balance a till that was $3.00 off, then so be it.  Fortunately, someone had a brain child and changed the rules.

The old rule kept the tills balanced but the cost to do so was more than the benefit.

If you are a restaurant owner and find having rules more a burden because there is no time to follow up (Or you don’t have the guts), then it may be time to approach making rules differently.

Rules to consider:

  • Management will not be in the office between 6 AM - 9AM, Noon - 2PM or 6PM – 9PM.
    • These are peak meal times when personal contact with both the team and guests are essential.
  • The following will not occur during peak meal times:
    • Inventory
    • Training brand new staff members
    • Orientating staff members
    • Interviews
  • Management will introduce themselves by name to guests upon arrival and departure.
    • The conversation will not be limited to:  “Hi, how is everything?” 
  • Staff interactions to each other will be positive in nature at all times. 
    • Cooperation is also seen and heard by guests which has a big impact on their experience.
  • Everyone helps everyone.  No exceptions.  This becomes apparent to guests and impacts their decision to return.
  • Every guest will have eye contact with staff which includes a positive remark when a connection happens.  (The rule needs to be “Hire those who do this automatically”)
  • “Thank you” responses in the form of a greeting card, email or phone call will be done by the management each day.  (A minimum of 20?  50?  Pick a number.)
  • “No questions asked” when a guest begins to talk about their dissatisfaction with food or service.  Immediate gratification first is the rule.
  • Every guest is asked up front:  Are there any dietary restrictions we should be aware of?
  • Every guest is asked up front:  Is there a celebration, special event or recognition today?
    • Most guests will say no but it leaves the door open and you will be surprised at how many change their minds and remember something special to share.
  • Staff must have one thing they can offer immediately without chasing down one of the management team.  How quickly the team can take care of issues says much to the guest.  Dessert, coffee, drink and appetizers are all good.  Gift Cards can be an option.
  • Work both ways. 
    • This is a rule for 100 years but needs constant monitoring and includes ALL staff.  This will increase productivity and improve service.  Watch the hands; you will be surprised how many times they are empty. 
  • Congratulate three staff members each day with a recognition, award, or reward.  This is a rule, not an option.
  • Don’t walk by the guest and talk and talk while in motion.  STOP for a moment and then hustle away. 
  • Huddle with team members at the beginning of every shift.  Goals, barriers, cheers and frustrations are shared.  (Don’t just say ‘hi’)
  • Huddle with team members at the end of every shift.  Goals, barriers, cheers and frustrations are shared.  (Don’t ask: “Did John already go home?”)
    • The rule in my restaurant was that EVERYONE had to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to me personally.  That ensured contact at a critical time.  (No one escapes the hello and goodbye)
  • Everyone is on time.   --- Important enough to repeat.  Everyone is on time.
    • Which takes us directly to the next rule.
  • Everyone on the team follows the rules; there are not exceptions – not even the owner or manager. 
  • There is no such thing as a schedule god. 
  • Checklists done before peak periods.
  • There is “firm, fair and consistency” with every decision.

In reality, these can be considered principles to follow vs. rules.  They focus on teamwork, guest satisfaction and restaurant marketing opportunities.   Each can impact the operation, sales, morale and will lower staff turnover. 

How to come up with your own rules:

Stay in touch with reality when making your own rules.  To come up with your own rules, carry 3X5 index cards in your pocket.  Every time you see or hear something happen that you “hate to see” or believe it will have a negative impact on the restaurant, write it down on your index cards.  The index cards you use for this will be:

I hate it when that happenscards. 


The idea is simple to execute as you see something that risks business, you write it down.  It is now on your “list” and you carry it daily in your pocket.  Once something is on your “list”, it is only a matter of time before you and your team find a solution.  It may take a day or even a month but everything on your “list” has a solution. 

By writing it down each time, you see the list again and again. 

By writing it down, it takes away stress of remembering because it is “on your list”.

As your list grows and forms a pattern, your new rules will develop as the core issues become more apparent.  You will begin to treat the issues at the very core vs. the symptoms.

The 3X5 index cards are not high tech.  They will change how you look at each problem and the new rules will shape the culture of a team.

Make your rule book faster:

Give 10 people on the team index cards and ask them to write down “I hate it when that happens” relative to what they see in the operation, guest service, waste, teamwork. 

Rule books are helpful for defense but when the team develops principles under which to operate, magic happens.

Rules are necessary but not usually motivating.  

How much of the day is based on principles and how much time focused on rules?  Are the rules helpful to growing sales or staying in control of things that don't matter much?



Tags: Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Management, Leadership