top of page

When The Owner Is Holding Your Restaurant Back

Yes Mr Restaurant Owner, you were inspired to take on the incredible commitment of work, energy and money it takes to open a restaurant.  Your ideas for the perfect menu, décor, location and ambiance were executed with flair and you have enjoyed the rarified status of being called a ‘restaurant owner’.  But unfortunately, you can’t actually call yourself a successful restaurant owner.  There are not enough customers, the ones who have tried your establishment are not coming back, and you are starting to get stressed as you project current revenues into the future, wondering if you’re going to make it..

A familiar story to be sure, especially in light of the often quoted statistics regarding restaurant failure,  but can a restaurant that is performing in, shall we say a mediocre way, be turned around? 

Maybe.  But only if a breakthrough in thinking by the owner(s) themselves can happen.  The need for different thinking is all too often the reason for a restaurant’s ultimate demise. 

Restaurant Owners are naturally prone to making emotional decisions.  They are heavily invested in their creation, and are often in complete denial even when the facts about ‘what is actually happening’ are staring them right in the face.  They insist that they know the ‘best way’ , ‘the right way’, ‘the best menu’ and on and on.  The problem is that while the owner’s perspectives might have strong points, the restaurant products and services on offer cannot be demonstrated as viable with customers.

Not that there is a shortage of suggestions and alternatives coming to the restaurant owner.  Most of the time there is plenty of helpful offerings from trusted friends, staff and even the customers themselves, but here is where the ‘Pathology or Restaurant Ownership’ rears its ugly head.  Rather than listening to constructive suggestions, the owner insists on defending their decisions and trying to educate the customers on why they are doing things in a certain way.  It gets worse when the owner selectively remembers the one or two instances of positive feedback to defend their decisions about a particular menu item for example, instead of looking at the low occurrences of customers ordering that particular item over time.

Restaurant owners often have their Egos on the line, their blinders on and their earplugs in when it comes to feedback and suggestions for improvement.  This is not good for the restaurant.  So what can be done about this all-too-common restaurant owner phenomenon?   First of all, if you’re the restaurant owner reading this,  after you are through telling yourself – “NO That’s Not Me!” … take a breath.

First of all ask yourself this question:  “Am I so attached to what I am doing that I am willing to waste all of the energy I have put in, the investment, the hiring of staff who depend upon me for a job,  and on and on.. just to stick to my way of doing things?” .  Now if you’re a world renowned chef and have an incredible following hanging on your every new creation – well, maybe you’re right.  If not, it’s time for you to ask yourself another question:  “Would I rather have a restaurant on the brink of closure and be totally stressed, but still push forward my distinct offering  OR would you rather have a successful  restaurant with lots of customers that is securely profitable even though you may have to give up or change some of the fundamental things you are doing?

Ok we already know the answers to those questions, but getting beyond your own Ego restaurant owners is really what’s required for a successful restaurant.  By a successful restaurant I am referring to two things:  

#1. A restaurant with a high customer return and recommend rate

#2. A sustainable and profitable business model

So in a nutshell, what do you need to do for the health of your restaurant enterprise?

You need to become a scientist.  That means, you need data-driven decision making.  Get your Ego out of it, and look at the hard facts.  But what facts should you be looking at?

First of all, make sure you have some facts.  Look at the basics first.  For example – how many customers are coming in? What days of the week?  What time of day?  What do they order? How much do they spend? 

After you get through making excuses about why “Well Wednesday is never a busy day “ or some such drivel, start asking yourself why you are getting the results you are getting (or not getting).

The Quality of a particular menu item might not be the factor that is influencing customer return and recommend rate at all.  It could just as easily be slow service, pricing, front line employee service behaviors, your hours or even your location among many other things.  So how do you know if you are looking at the most important facts?  Without actual data from customers you are, in effect, guessing.

Consulting with and auditing many restaurants, this author has seen more than one restaurant owner burning through mountains of cash trying this and that other thing until hopefully, something gets a good reaction from customers.  (In the consulting business, we call this hunting and pecking.. ). 

So before you fire the chef, remodel the place, or flush a lot of money down the toilet on advertising it would certainly be helpful to have an audit checklist and measurement system to make sure you are looking at the right things at your restaurant.  What kind of things?

The ten factors that most influence Customer Return & Recommend Behavior. (Yes, that’s your most important business metric).

Bart Allen Berry, (that’s me), has revealed the Ten Values Of Excellence that most strongly correlates with customer loyalty, preference and what customers themselves describe as ‘Excellence’.

These include Quality, Value, Timeliness, Environment, Connection, Service Behaviors and more (You’ll have to get the book for the in depth research results from more than two million customers). 

I’ve developed a powerful 40 question audit to measure overall Customer Satisfaction, your current return and recommend rate according to these audit scores and your strengths and weaknesses as a restaurant.  It’s actually a valid audit process for any industry or customer-supplier relationship, but particularly effective for restaurants. 



There are many insights from this Customer Behavior research.  It is very interesting to note that actual preference and loyalty behavior does not develop until you score a 7.9 (1 to 10 scale) or higher in overall satisfaction.  It’s not linear, you can’t expect to score a 6.5 and get let’s say 65% of customers to return.  Nope, you have to break through the 7.9 level to get any positive return and recommend rate effect, but once you do – you can increase loyalty dramatically and exponentially the higher and higher you score. 

This is an audit template you can use – to first establish a baseline measurement of how you are doing now in each of the Ten Values of Excellence, and subsequently to reveal a game plan to mitigating for your weaknesses and building on your strengths.  This is the scientific approach.

Measure – Evaluate – Take Improvement Action – Measure – Evaluate – etc.

You get the idea. 

But with all of the millions of details pressing upon you and stealing your time it’s so hard to pay attention to just a few things, right?  All the more reason to have this ‘Audit Of Excellence’ already prepared for you.  I promise you that this information and audit process in my new book “Becoming Excellent – Applying The Ten Values Of Excellence To Your Organization’ will help you completely change the way you think about your business, your customers and your priorities as a restaurant owner.  Suddenly you will discover the ‘why’ behind what you should be doing to get and keep more loyal returning customers. 

When you apply this more scientific approach to the success of your restaurant, you’ll be just as proud of your restaurant when your customer’s shower you will accolades, positive reviews and come back with their friends.  This is a clear methodology and roadmap to the success you are looking for.

So restaurant owners, take a breath and realize that there is a great set of tools available so you can start making data-driven decisions, rather than emotional ones.  And an audit process that will reveal the first things you should be concentrating on, the second etc.

There’s a lot more to tell about The Ten Values Of Excellence and how they affect your business, so here’s your chance to get the book and begin your improvement adventure today.

Read More

bottom of page