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 tell you to go around the next block? I know this has happened to me. Sometimes you just go the wrong way. It doesn’t mean you can’t turn around and get back on track where you need to be. The same is true in the restaurant industry. Maybe you made a few wrong turns or missed a few chances, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. You can get back on track. It takes a lot of work and determination, but you can manage it.

A restaurant with a bad reputation has a unique opportunity to redeem itself in its community. Just because your restaurant has a negative position in the community doesn’t mean you can’t make things better.

How do I know if my restaurant is malfunctioning?

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

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

This is what you should do:

  1. Bring together owners, managers, supervisors, and key staff members to discuss the issues that are holding back your restaurant’s success.

    • Use your comments to prepare a list of what needs to be fixed in your restaurant.

    • Prioritize the most important problems to the least important to solve them.

    • Have these people take time to brainstorm how to solve problems.

  2. Establish a plan of action.

    • Start with the most important problem and have owners, directors, managers, and supervisors brainstorm how to fix that problem.

    • Make sure your action plan is realistic, have clear actions that build on each other; Actions must be measurable and have a deadline for completion.

    • Assign and divide action items among owners, directors, managers, supervisors, and key employees.

    • It is important that you and your managers set a deadline for progress.

  3. Implement the action plan.

    • Assign specific responsibilities for each person to solve this problem.

    • If the first action plan doesn’t move forward, don’t give up. Just modify the current approach, try a different approach, or move on to another problem that could make this problem difficult to fix.

    • If someone is not doing their part, discuss why it is not working and determine what will help that person to participate fully. This can also be the opportunity to see if one or more of the managers or employees is actually causing some of the problems.

  4. If you discover that a manager or employee is causing one or more of the problems, you have several options.

    • Verbally discuss your concerns with that person and ask how they would like to improve. Offer suggestions if you are not ready to come up with your own ideas. Discuss the time frame to correct the problems and hold them accountable.

      • Ideas could be: additional training, a different job title, adjusting your schedule to a less busy time to work on changes, attitude adjustments, or whatever fits that situation.

      • Getting your input should help them move forward with the behavior change.

    • If the behavior does not change within the specified time period, you may need a report on the employee with a written action plan to correct the problem. Ask the person to sign the action plan and agree to carry it out within the specified time.

    • If the behavior continues with the written plan, you can rewrite or even consider terminating the employee. Make sure you keep a written record on paper to protect yourself and hold them accountable. If you do nothing, you are tolerating their behavior and causing a negative ripple effect that could lead to even bigger problems and more employees not following the policies you have set.

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

If you’re going the wrong way, it might be time to make a U-turn. Brainstorm to discover your problems. Make an action plan. Implement your action plan. Put your restaurant on the right track!

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