FROM RESTAURANTCONNECT ACADEMY:
THE ROOTS OF RESTAURANT SUCCESS
PART 5 OF 6
One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to remaining competitive, fresh and relevant, is seeing through our guests’ eyes. Too much of what seems important accumulates. Real priorities get cloaked or forgotten.
The chef only sees food presented under the kitchen’s fluorescent lights in the rush (or boredom) of each day. Servers only taste the food while sparing against fifteen other forks for a bite during tasting panels. And the goal there is to make up for a lost lunch. Bartenders sip their creation through a thin black straw (or gulp one down for lost weekend therapy). Subtle apathy from team members goes undetected by ownership or management – yet remains instantly detectable by those we ask to remember us.
The naked walk-through requires not time, but attention
With repetition cloaking becomes a masked standard. It affects the team’s perception of the restaurant’s master vision. A good rule of thumb is to reset the big picture in harmony with nature’s seasonal changes.
There’s a natural rhythm here. Menus will change, music selections should change, our guests’ attire will change, even modes of transportation, communication and what our guests are willing to spend will fluxuate. We can use seasonal changes as a reminder it’s time to stay relevant. After all, don’t we want all eyes on us?
Here’s where we start. At an appropriate time, head across the street. Go one or two blocks away and watch what’s happen in all directions. What’s the ebb and flow look like? What are people driving. How are they dressed. What’s being advertised in the area? What pockets of activity are there?
Now turn to the restaurant and imagine it’s special pockets of activity throughout the day. What’s the place look like when it’s closed? Imagine how the staff arrives. How’s their posture, energy level, and preoccupation in those moments where their day changes from personal to professional.
How about when the guests arrive? What about when the leave? Has their countenance changed from the before to the after? As they get into their car to leave, there’s already a pending review on display. What’s it say? How many staff members, including ownership and management, would be able to read this review on the spot (and be accountable for what it will say)?
How do you feel about what they’ll say? Will the restaurant connect with each guest’s passions? Will they write about the paint, the landscaping or the roof? What would they say about where the trash goes? Observe every detail from their Pulitzer Prize winning review. Find something that’s going to make it out into the world – even if it shouldn’t.
Now walk back to the restaurant. What’s across the street? Who are your neighbors? Do things fit the concept, the time of year, and what the market desires?
On the way to the front door, how’s the curb, the gutter, the parking lot? Reaching the front door, are windows smudged or so clean someone just might walk right through?
What we’re doing here is slowing time just enough to hit the pause button stop the illusions we inevitable surround ourselves with.
With nothing on, it’s possible to see and feel what’s really there
Inside, how does the restaurant look, smell, sound and feel? Find something else that wasn’t noticed before that’s going to be pointed out for the world to see. Guaranteed it’s there. Find it. Is there something you’ll wish stayed covered?
What’s something the world doesn’t know about yet that you’re proud of? Find something that makes the restaurant unique and desireable. Search the menu. How’s the variety? Pricing? Think about the cumulative experience. What’s memorable coming out of the bathroom(s) back into the dining room? Spot anything forgettable? If answers aren’t showing up, you’re not naked.
Get naked (figuratively, of course) and return to the fabric of the restaurant’s concept. We don’t often know what’s under the “appealing” surface until a layer or two is peeled back. What is sometimes the hardest, is when we see things how they used to be (oh, our youth!), but things have changed when we weren’t looking, and the outside world looks back at us differently.
Ensure everybody, from the dishwasher to the fish-delivery guy, to the hostess to the general manager, understands what we do and why we do it- and what we really look like while we’re doing it. We all must all be believers. There’s got to be a why that’s bigger than the job, the paycheck or future personal advancement. This “why” is us in our most honest form. Only when we’re naked can we see what shapes each guest’s most personal, even unaware moments, when they’re with us.
Now that you know what you look like naked, everybody on the team needs to join in
At this point, there should be new things worth sharing. In this seasonal change, bring everybody you can into the dining room and share. Share what’s been seen with utmost honesty. A few days or hours before this meeting, have a few, or all, of your team members walk down the street (at an appropriate time) and observe. Get a few of them to observe the things mentioned above.
Then in a constructive way, let them share their truth. Listen to what they see, smell or hear. Do be afraid to be embarrassed. Ensure people aren’t ashamed for sharing what they see or feel. In fact, if there isn’t some genuine discomfort, check to ensure this exercise isn’t trapped in a safety-zone.
The observations of a dishwasher, busser or even a purveyor can be as valuable as a six-figure consultant. Use this exercise in your efforts to fire-up a collective passion that moves everybody toward the ultimate mission of the restaurant.
Create meaningful growth with a good old-fashioned plan
Document what resonates, and get a plan for action together. Reach a consensus of what the most appealing thing about the “body” of the restaurant (nothing wrong with flaunting our gifts!), but also what needs work.
Give everybody a role in the plan, give them a reward for not only their participation, but for acheiving desired results by a specific date. Return to this plan throughout the week to ensure accountability and results.
It’s tending to the unseen that shapes what we become
As a result, daily micro-actions keep us true to what we’re trying to be for our guests. Individual efforts become evident in the passion of a bartender while mixing drinks. That slight, extra moment of care in a smile, a listening ear, a subtle pause to make sure it’s done right. It’s found in the fleeting seconds a sous chef takes when placing the nightly food order, double checking the freshness of what could be (or should not be) tomorrow’s fish or vegetables before moving on.
During these small moments a true brand emerges. There is no zing-bang-bam or holy-cow. It’s quiet, subtle and driven by mindfulness, awareness, discipline and a clear, unified direction.
Split seconds of observations, usually when nobody is looking, make all the difference. There’s a knowing that an invisible impact is on the way, heading toward the guests arriving at the restaurant loaded with their expectations. It’s seeing what they will see with the same joy and excitement, each and every time, just as if it was the first time (figuratively, of course).