By Mark G. Moeller, Restaurant Development Consultant at The Recipe of Success
I have been in the restaurant business for over 30 years and have been helping restaurants as a consultant for the past 14 years. What I have found is that most restaurants are too close to their everyday operations to be able to make objective decisions that will allow them to improve. When restaurants are too focused on profits they make sacrifices to quality that will not provide guest satisfaction.
When I go into a restaurant, the best way I can learn is to become an employee. I cannot stand on the sidelines and observe. Instead I have to participate to better understand what a restaurant is all about, how they do things and then identify areas where they need improvement. They have called me for a reason so they are ready to make changes.
As a consultant, all I can do is offer guidance and recommendations that will help the restaurant meet or exceed its goals. As a former restaurant owner, I have implemented and successfully utilized all the procedures and practices I introduce to my clients. I am a nuts and bolts operator; I understand that structure and systems are vital to a restaurant’s success. After working within a client’s restaurant and understanding their strengths and weaknesses, I am able to develop custom training and operations material for my clients. This material is in the form of manuals, job aids and checks and balances (systems) so that they may build on the foundation I have helped strengthen and in some cases put into place.
I also help restaurateurs with inventory control and management, guest service focus and concerns as well as with bigger picture issues such as renegotiating procurement agreements to lower food and paper costs and branding. However, this is not where the real help lies. It boils down to what a restaurant has to offer guests once I am gone. With tools designed to maintain consistency in providing high quality meals with standardized processes and recipes a restaurant is able to cater to their guests with the best possible food and service.
Each restaurant I work with is different yet they all need the same help.
There are a lot of moving parts to any restaurant. I know that what works for a restaurant in one town might not work for a restaurant one town over. What I share with restaurant owners is how everything they do and every decision they make affects the bottom line. In other words everything they touch that will ultimately reach their guests has to be taken into consideration. How will it affect their guests’ experience?
If I can stand by and watch an employee picking out the brown bits from heads of lettuce I know that that’s not going to cut it by the time it reaches the guest’s plate. This means they need some serious attention to production and how they are preparing food. Especially when it comes to food production, it is all about doing the key is to produce less more often in order to maintain product quality. If you prep a large quantity of vegetables at one time or produce a large batch of stew that lasts a week in order to “save labor”, you have lost focus on product quality and consistency. The first day or two, guests are going to enjoy an exceptional meal. However by the third, fourth and fifth day they are eating what might have been an excellent meal when it was made, but has now become merely acceptable.
By making less more often a restaurant is taking control of the quality of their food. It standardizes their food preparation and allows them to serve food when it is amazing not when it has faded day after day. These are the actions that affect the different levels of a restaurant’s business. It is the sacrifices in quality that guests will remember. Restaurants have to believe that it is not about saving a buck but about quality over price. There will be some exceptional dishes that they will make less money on but offer better satisfaction to their guests. That is what will separate them from the competition.