How Restaurateurs Turn Challenges into their Biggest Competitive Advantage

I was recently interviewed by Howard Riell for a cover story for Restaurant Startup and Growth Magazine titled, “Help Needed — How to Compete for and Retain Employees in Today’s Job Market.”

If you want to know what I think about that topic, Howard really nailed it.

To summarize: owners of multi-unit independent restaurant companies simply can’t compete on benefit packages offered by the big chain restaurant companies — or the illusion of opportunity the big chains offer.

Instead, restaurateurs have to turn that weakness into strength and sell their current and prospective employees on the things they can do better than their larger competition: be real, create a great culture, and give them a cause that inspires them and a dose of freedom to go with it.

Here is an Example

I was talking to a group of restaurant partners this morning.  Their franchisor is not giving them the support they need to increase sales. Nobody wants to hear that — especially when they are paying franchise fees.

Together we decided to forget the things outside our control, shut that out of our minds, take creative action in their organization, and convert that weakness into a strength — developing creative solutions tailored to their market.

Breaking through Mental Barriers

  1. Document. Write down a list of all your self-talk — the weaknesses in your business that, by now, you might take for granted. These are things you do not even question anymore; they have become baked into your consciousness.
  2. Collaborate. Enlist a peer or a friend — someone outside your company who has business savvy — to help you figure out how to look at these weaknesses as strengths. Turn them around to benefit you, as in the examples above.
  3. Implement. Once you have got that new approach, get to work. Create a plan, with a timeline and objectives, and assign it to the right person in your organization.
  4. Accountability. Follow up on progress and the timeline. Strong or weak, nothing counts until it happens.

Every day I hear my successful clients — respected and admired exemplars of the “American Dream” who have built their companies from scratch — express concerns about their weaknesses.

They don’t have the resources the big boys have for training and development. They don’t have the buying power to get the lowest prices on the food they purchase every day. When competing for the best locations, they do not have a corporate guarantee from a publicly traded company.

To maximize their net worth they have to focus on what they do have — and capitalize on that.