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The Restaurant U-Turn: Reverse a Restaurants Poor Reputation With an Action Plan That Works!

Have you ever used a GPS and passed your destination? Does the voice tell you to make a “legal U-turn as soon as possible?” Or does it direct you to go around the next block? I know that this has happened to me. Sometimes you just go down the wrong path. It doesn’t mean you can’t turn around and get back on track to where you need to be. It’s the same in the restaurant industry. Maybe you made some wrong turns or missed some opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. You can get back on track. It requires a great deal of work and determination, but you can manage it.

A restaurant that has a poor reputation has a unique opportunity to redeem themselves in their community. Simply because your restaurant has a negative standing in the community does not mean you can’t turn things around for the better.

How do I recognize if my restaurant is performing poorly?

  • Are you losing sales daily?
  • Is your bottom line in the RED?
  • Do you receive a great deal of customer complaints?
  • Is your dining room half full during peak times?
  • Do you receive negative comment cards?
  • Are you finding it difficult to retain staff?
  • Do you get negative ratings from the health department?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may be at serious risk. Most people may tell you to close your doors, and start over from the beginning. Realistically, you are already losing money and shutting your doors could result in a total loss. It is best to stay open and sit down with your management staff and supervisors and create a working action plan on how to fix your issues. Make a plan for each issue and set up a time frame for how long you have to fix that issue. Remember, each day that you wait, you are losing more money.

This is what you should do:

  1. Gather the owners, managers, supervisors and key staff members to discuss the issues holding back the success of your restaurant.

    • Use their feedback to prepare a list of what needs to be fixed in your restaurant.
    • Prioritize the most important to the least important issues to fix.
    • Have these people take some time to brainstorm ideas on how to fix the issues.
  2. Set up an action plan.

    • Start with the biggest issue and have the owners, directors, managers and supervisors brainstorm ideas on how to repair that problem.
    • Make sure your action plan is realistic, has clear actions that build upon each other; the actions should be measurable, and have a time frame for completion.
    • Assign and divide up the action items among the owners, directors, managers, supervisors and key employees.
    • Giving yourself and your managers a deadline is important to make progress.
  3. Implement the action plan.

    • Assign each person’s specific responsibilities to fix this issue.
    • If the first action plan doesn’t make progress, don’t give up. Just tweak the current approach, try a different approach, or move on to another issue that could be making this issue difficult to fix.
    • If someone is not doing his/her part, then discuss why it isn’t working and determine what will help that person to fully participate. This may also be the opportunity to see if one or more of the managers or employees are actually causing some of the issues.
  4. If you find a manager or employee is causing one or more of the issues, you have several options.

    • Verbally discuss your concerns with that person and ask them for how they would like to improve themselves. Offer suggestions if they aren’t ready to come up with their own ideas. Discuss the time frame to correct the issues and hold them accountable.

      • Ideas could be: additional training, a different job role, adjusting their schedule to a less busy time to work on the changes, attitude adjustments or whatever fits that situation
      • Getting their input should help them follow through on changing their behavior
    • If the behavior does not change within the specified time period, you may need a write-up on the employee with a written plan of action to correct the issue. Have the person sign the action plan and agree to follow through on it within the time specified.
    • If the behavior continues with the written plan you can either do a second write-up or even consider termination of the employee. Make sure you keep a written paper trail to protect yourself and keep them accountable. If you do nothing, you are condoning their behavior and causing a negative domino effect that could result in even bigger problems and more employees who are not following policies you have set up.

Like a piece of a pie section out what you would like to fix first. Fix one slice of the pie before going on to the second slice of the pie. If you take on too many slices at once, you will get overwhelmed and frustrated. This will result in failure. It took some time to get to this level, so take the time you need to fix it.

If you are going down the wrong path, then maybe it is time to make a U-turn! Brainstorm to discover your issues. Come up with an action plan. Implement your action plan. Put your restaurant on the right path!


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