A restaurant is one of the most difficult businesses to run. The hours are killer. The waste huge. The costs insane. The regulations stringent. It’s hard to find good employees. Harder to keep good employees.

It’s common to see restaurants fold up. Too common.

What can be done to improve a restaurant?

People are reading this and thinking, “improve the food” and your problems are solved. No.

The food is only part of a restaurant experience. Note the word experience. That’s where you start.

If I were to go to your restaurant, what would my experience be? The owner absolutely must think about the customer’s whole experience from the minute the customer enters the door to the drive out of your parking lot.

First, can you define that experience? For one restaurant the experience may be a slow, relaxing pleasure from cocktail to after dinner espresso. Or it might be the best, sloppiest burger in the world in a noisy, happy and intense environment.

But those two experiences do not mix. I don’t want to dress and have a $50 wine with a sloppy burger. Nor do I want the best meal I’ve had in a noisy intense place.

Once the experience is defined, everything must fit that experience. All the pieces have to come together.

Let’s say you’ve got the experience pretty well worked out. We can refine that. If business needs improving, cut the offerings on the menu. Too many choices lead to indecision and frustration by the customers. Worse, too many offerings lead to old food and waste. REDUCE THE MENU CHOICES. What remains, do very, very well.  No freestyle. Be consistent. When I go back, I want that dish I loved to be the dish I loved and not different every time.

Clean. Your restaurant cannot be too clean. I mean clean. And you should make a show of keeping things clean. That means no dirty rags to wipe the seats and then the table. Clean. Use cleaners that are scent free or smell good. Never have any food on the floor—never.

Restrooms. Clean, clean, clean. Put flowers in the restroom. Patrol the restrooms. Clean, clean, clean.

Windows, carpet—-clean.

There’s a start.

So you think that’s pretty basic, right?

It’s not. Only the really successful restaurants understand that it’s the experience that makes the place great.

Focus on the experience.

Now, lastly, how can you get an honest evaluation of the experience you are presenting? Forget friends and family. They lie.

Give free “coupons” to total strangers if they will fill out and mail in a totally anonymous survey.

You can greatly improve a restaurant within 60 days if you work very, very smart.

Need help? I’d love to work with you.

Chris Reich, TeachU