Who needs a restaurant consultant? It appears "no one". Especially since technology allows every restaurant owner to put on their menu: “Prime Rib” since the ease of thawing and heating in an air tight package is simple and fast.
Food prices may double and everyone believes fuel will do so as well Corn is more valuable as fuel than it is for nourishment. There is a belief by some that marketing is 140 characters long. Monitoring costs is via the POS and it is said the social media is the answer to growing sales.
Everything is “easier” and yet success still evades the hard working restaurateur.
After thirty years of leading teams in the restaurant industry, doubling sales over and over, turning around operations from “the worst” to the “most profitable”, I see mostly the same perplexities. These perplexities are about misperceptions, self-imposed barriers, sales pitches, skill and knowledge, and the lack of will-power to overcome. In reality, technology has been as much a curse as a blessing. New technology has made it more difficult to train teams with the latest software updates and tech tools. The pace is faster and accountability technology offers leaves less almost no room for error.
Long ago, I remember when a restaurant consultant visited my restaurant in the middle of peak lunch, handed me a business card and asked if I had time to talk. Obviously the restaurant consultant knew when to catch me. The best operators are present during peak times for lunch and dinner. He seemed not to care that he disrespected my guests and my team by interrupting during a critical time. Even so, I gave him 30 minutes of my time the next afternoon. The successful restaurant owner is of course always open and ever curious.
The pitch he gave emphasized all the things he could do for my business and what the goals could be. He had mistaken me for a rookie. Why wouldn’t he? I was still under 40 years old, young in spirit, trusting and was willing to make an appointment with someone who interrupted lunch service.
In the end I was perplexed. The restaurant consultant did not seem interested in my business, its history or its future. We had already doubled sales and would continue to double sales again and again. He did not make any indication as to how he had heard about my business but I would bet my aggressive marketing campaigns and talk around the town must have caught his attention.
He did not ask about what my objectives were or what the barriers might be. He did not inquire about what success had been achieved thus far. He was a stranger giving me a pitch about everything he and his company did and at the end showed the price tag and the process for signing up. "Pay $10,000 and we can help you."
As an experienced restaurateur, I already had a very long list of short term and long term objectives lined up. My manpower plan was in place and training programs were being executed by the team leaders. Repairs, maintenance and equipment purchases were planned out for the next three years. The profit and loss reports were projected before the month began and the management team knew in advance what the targets were, how we were going to hit the targets, the measures of success and the reward for achieving success.
The restaurant consultant was from out of the area, had not done his homework and the volume of my business made me an obvious candidate for being able to pay a consultant fee. I had a proverbial target on my back. You probably have one as well.
Where was he when the dining room was empty 18 months previous, when there were only 5 employees and I was in the process of building the business, almost from scratch? While cash was tight, that is when help was needed.
I now spend time as a marketing coach to help business owners “change their marketing reality”, implement great guerrilla marketing plans and leverage inbound marketing. Restaurants remain my favorite of all businesses because of the hospitality and service is hard-wired into brain and I share the principles with every business owner about “hospitality”.
Perplexities have changed. Now they are in regards to how restaurant owners and leaders say they want success and yet the decisions which hurt business far outnumber those that will grow sales.
Is it because of restaurant consultants are approaching with a good pitch and interrupt during peak lunch or dinner?
It is important that to connect with those who will say “let me show you” vs. a sales pitch. Training and education is the foundation. The ebb and flow around the most popular tool of the month club is not the predominate factor for creating successful restaurant marketing campaigns.
There are consultants who will tell you straight up how to achieve success and how the restaurant business relies heavily on the power of a team. They will remind you that systems and process are imperative to maintain success. It will be tough to find a restaurant consultant who will be highly committed.
As I talk to restaurant owners with good experience, I continue to seek out why they respond to overcoming barriers with: “It’s hard”, “I don’t trust staff”, “Marketing costs too much”, “I will just work harder and longer”, “I am going to raise the prices and lower the portions, “I am working very long hours”.
How about you? Instead of waiting for a restaurant consultant to knock on your door or call at the most inopportune time, be proactive and start a conversation. Don’t wait until you are desperate and you need to rebuild.
Restaurant consultants are human too and while one might be world class, that does not mean they are the best fit for you. The ability to communicate and create a synergy is as important as expertise.
Regardless of your role, jot down the biggest frustration about your restaurant business: Sales, marketing, technology, mystery shoppers, equipment, team building, expansion, franchising, employee theft, turnover, etc. Contact me if you feel it is time to change the game.
In fact, interview one restaurant consultant per month. Take notes and don't be in a hurry. The right coach/consultant will return their fee ten-fold over the course of 12 to 18 months.
If you are working for a living with a salary as a manager, it does not exclude or limit you to from the opportunity. Doubling sales within a corporate environment is just as possible as an independent. Feel free to contact me.
No one stands on the stage and tells a story about how they became successful alone.