Canadian Pizza Magazine

Operational mistakes – and the lies we tell ourselves about them

By Brad “Paco” Miller   

Features Business and Operations Staffing

March 10, 2015 – Many operators like to believe that
past successes or failures make them immune to mistakes, writes Brad Miller,
operations associate at Synergy Restaurant Consultants. Mistakes are natural,
but recovering and learning from them is crucial.

March 10, 2015 – Many
operators like to believe that past successes (or failures) make them immune to
mistakes. Mistakes are natural, but recovering and learning from them is
crucial. Through many years of listening to restaurateurs, these are the
operational “fibs” I hear most often:

“Higher sales will take care of my problems.”


don’t understand your costs: If your food cost is 35% with low sales, it will
most likely be 35% with higher sales. Higher sales volume will bring you more
cash flow, but unless you create a plan to lower your prime cost (cost of
goods, labor and paper), your profits will never grow as fast as you’d like.
Remember: If you want to increase your profit margin from 5% to 10%, it can be
easier to lower costs by 5% than to double sales (and achieve the same

“This drop in customer counts is temporary…this always happens this time of

not reacting to the market: Restaurants can be very cyclical in nature, but
unless you have a strong marketing plan with specific tactics, you will always
feel that seasonal drop. January may be the best time to introduce a new LTO or
hit the social media marketing hard. This also might be a good time to get a
couple steps ahead of your competition by offering items that are in front of
the latest trends.

“I’ll just settle this employment lawsuit and be done with it.”

don’t have an updated HR plan: You must ask yourself, “Why were we sued in the
first place?”, then update your policy handbooks and train your staff. Do your
managers have the training they need to avoid problems in the future? Does your
restaurant have the right tools (operations manuals, HR handbooks, training
manuals) to prevent future actions? If not, history will probably repeat

“Raising menu prices will offset our higher supplier costs.”

don’t have updated recipe and plate costs, and restaurant operations that don’t
are “working in the dark.” Knowing your overall food cost is one thing, but
accurate plate and recipe costing is integral to any success strategy. Maybe
you only have to adjust some portion sizes or change an ingredient to keep your
plate cost in line.

“Yelp is not that big of a deal.”

don’t react to negative feedback: Yelp is a really big deal, and you may not
like it but it’s here to stay. Don’t let one squeaky wheel affect the rating
that you’ve been working on for five years. There are some creative ways to get ahead of bad reviews
and win back those upset guests. And never, ever try to cheat the system. Those
crafty Yelp programmers have written algorithms to prevent you and your friends
from artificially boosting your rating!

“I think our operation is efficient.”

may be time to update procedures (or create standard operating procedures):
Standard operating procedures are about consistency and efficiency. Does your
kitchen utilize prep charts, pull charts, inventories and line charts? Do your
servers follow a sequence of service…every time? Do your managers follow
opening and closing procedures? If not, it’s time to update and start saving
some labor hours.

“Our food is good.”

have fallen behind the trends: If your food is “good,” you’re in trouble. Your
food should be “amazing”—and your service “remarkable.” If you can’t safely say
that you serve, hands-down, the best product in town, you’re not competing in
this very aggressive landscape. It is time to change. Take a close look at your
flavors and plate presentations. Challenge your staff to come up with the next
big idea for your menu. Engage your guests for feedback and include them in the

“I know exactly who my customers are.”

are not collecting the right information about your guests: It’s not only
feedback that keeps us informed about what we are doing right and wrong, it’s
collecting data about who your guests are. Data is valuable information. Are
you collecting emails, Facebook likes, Twitter information, Pinterest
followers? Do you know what your regulars order? Are you utilizing the data
from your POS system to track item sales and trends?

Miller brings more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality sector to Synergy
Restaurant Consultants. He holds keen expertise in operations, finance, bar and
mixology programs, menu revitalization and FOH efficiencies in both
full-service and fast-casual concepts.


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