Welcome to the Surrender News/Blog.  Get the latest news, trends, tips and information to help you succeed and thrive in the workplace.

These Three New COVID-Era Metrics Determine 2021 Restaurant Success

At the risk of going all Winston Churchill on you, forecasting and planning for 2021 looks like “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Increased COVID cases may have a negative impact on revenue. Availability and acceptance of a vaccine may have a positive impact on revenue. Meanwhile, the regrettable truth is the amount of competition … Continued

Restaurants Win When COVID Ends by Putting Uncertainty Aside Now

Remember the days leading up to the presidential election? And the days after it? World-championship LeBron James levels of uncertainty – like much of the year 2020. Reminds me of a telephone negotiation I just completed.  The person on the other end of the call said to me, “What we really need on this is … Continued

Four Tools Restaurant Owners Use to Succeed Through the Pandemic

Earlier in the year, I expected to be writing by now about the lessons we learned during the COVID crisis. I mean, we knew going into this that it wasn’t going to be a sprint. We always thought it would be a marathon. But it turns out we’re in an ultra-marathon. When the COVID-19 crisis … Continued

How Top Restaurateurs Build Strong Futures with Second Generation Space

If everyone who calls me talking about taking advantage of second-generation restaurant space moves forward with their plans, I predict second-generation space will soon be in tight supply. Remember when there wasn’t any second-generation space? Not anymore. One of the tragic outcomes of this COVID-19 crisis? The number of restaurants that have been forced to … Continued

Forecasting the Next Six Months in Our Restaurant Industry

In 2020 you need all the help you can get. Here is help for you that takes next Monday at 2 PM CDT (registration link at the bottom of the page). Read below about Denny Law Group’s annual industry event, free and this year, virtual. David Denney hosts me and a panel of other experts … Continued

How Top Restaurants Protect Their Future and Connect with Lost Guests

Remember your former long-time guests? The ones you have not seen since March? Think of all their names and faces now. While they may seem like just a memory at this point, they’re more than that – they represent your life’s work…and your future profit. So surprise them; get in touch with them to revive … Continued

Why Top Owners Order To-Go from Their Own Restaurants

Restaurateurs who barely gave a thought to to-go and delivery before this year are now relying on them to help their restaurants produce any kind of revenue approaching historical norms. For that to happen, though, customers need to perceive your to-go and delivery as fast, efficient, accurate, and safe – from easy online ordering to … Continued

What to Do if Your Restaurant Gets – or Doesn’t Get – a PPP2 Loan

Qualifying for a potential PPP2 loan is critical to survival planning. Congress is working with a formula where  PPP2 loans, if they happen, reward people who could not (or did not) open after the shelter-in-place orders – or had central business district or tourist locations. Those restaurants need the help. On the flip side, qualifying … Continued

Smartest Thing Restaurateurs Can Do on Labor Day 2020

2020 has taken its place as the best year of our lifetimes to honor the American worker.  Like everything else, Labor Day has taken on the personality of what we got this year-not what we typically encounter.   With no experience to fall back on, we expect there will never be anything like it again, … Continued

Why Crisis Response Mode is Holding Your Restaurant Back

Welcome to a new phase of dealing with the pandemic. More and more lately, owners of multi-unit restaurant groups tell me about how they spend their time – and what that time yields right now.  When this all started in March, restaurateurs were shocked into action and didn’t understand that this would be a new … Continued

The Most Important Virtual Place Restaurateurs Need to Be Next Week

If you could take a time machine back to early March, you probably wouldn’t recognize yourself, your guests, or your employees. Remember that carefree childhood? The COVID-19 crisis has changed us all. We are living through one of the toughest times we will ever face (as grownups). We have new concerns, perspectives, and needs that … Continued

How Great Restaurants Stop Making Excuses, Move Beyond Wartime Footing

When a new restaurant opens: For the first few weeks, everyone runs around chaotically excusing every misstep saying, “We just opened – things happen!” After a while, though, that excuse rings hollow and gets in the way of progress. Typically three or four weeks into operations, I walk in and say, “We are not going … Continued

Three Key Factors Restaurants Have Going For Them Now

The past few weeks have been a violent wake-up alarm that ended fleeting dreams of “best-case” COVID-19 scenarios. Negativity and challenges can be overwhelming. Like me, do you have strong feelings about the missed opportunities that have made this crisis much worse than it could have been? Instead, focus on the indicators that tell you … Continued

What to Say Now To Restaurant Managers and Staff to Create Success

The COVID-19 crisis has spread chaos throughout your top line, bottom line, life’s work, savings, and future. While you think deeply about repairing those things, never forget how this has impacted the managers and staff who make your business go every day. What you say to them – and how you talk to them – … Continued

Restaurateur’s Guide to Summer Vacation 2020

You’ve just finished the weirdest July 4 of your life. In a normal year, all you would have had to deal with was Independence Day falling on a Saturday – something that wreaks havoc with your sales even in a good year. But on top of that, you have a crescendo of COVID-19 cases being … Continued

Avoid the Biggest Mistake Restaurateurs Can Make Now

At some point every day, think about your cash position and borrowing ability.   Imagine the letters C-A-S-H in red letters 12 feet high on your front lawn. I know you have a lot of things to think about (and do), like running your partitioned and socially-distanced dining rooms, studying your newly-installed curbside to-go stations, encouraging … Continued

How Restaurants Rebound by Asking Guests These Questions

The pandemic has completely changed the mindset of restaurant guests. It’s like you went to sleep on a beautiful summer night and woke up in the middle of the winter and there is frost on the ground.  The restaurant groups that listen to and react quickly to their guests during this crisis will be the … Continued

3 Most Important Keys to Stabilizing Your Restaurants

These days, owning restaurants feels like the scene in the horror movie where the most dangerous demon has been vanquished. For the first time, the protagonist sees an inkling that better days are coming. But they just can’t forget about that demon. An essential aspect of owning restaurants now has nothing to do with food, … Continued

The 4 Habits of Restaurateurs Who Will Successfully Navigate This Mess

Some of my friends were asking me about the restaurateurs who have joined my Restaurant Survival and Success Club – the group coaching offering I started to make sure restaurant owners can survive, stabilize, and dominate their segments when this mess is all over. “How will you move a bunch of inexperienced, scared, confused, challenged business … Continued

The One Thing Restaurant Owners Must Do to Survive This Crisis

Over three seasons of Ozark on Netflix, Jason Bateman’s character Marty Byrde has always seemed a minute or two from death because of his career choice to be a money launderer for a drug cartel. He actually does surprisingly well considering the situation. But you? You are not wired to live large portions of your life endlessly … Continued

Why Top Restaurateurs Must Reinvent Themselves to Survive This Crisis

Restaurants that were just doing OK (or worse) before the COVID-19 crisis will probably end up closing for good – and I don’t think we can save them. It saddens me to write that. Conversely, restaurants that entered this crisis producing great results, and had meaningful brands and culture, will dominate their segments in the … Continued

How COVID-19 Exposes Weakness in Your Restaurant Organization

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in our society: the lack of a coordinated national health care policy, no national sick leave program, and two political tribes that don’t even see the same facts – let alone work together on solutions to our problems. Similarly, if you pay attention as you sweat out the survival of your … Continued

Do This Now to Hold on to Your Restaurant Employees and Business

During this crisis, how well you connect to your active and furloughed employees will define your culture for years.  It will make the difference between having a bonded and enthusiastic workforce rather than one that feels bitter and neglected – and then looks elsewhere for employment. The people who run to-go and delivery in your … Continued

Most Positive Thing To Do Now for the Future of Your Restaurants

When the day comes – when you can legally operate your dining room again – you’ll be relieved, exhausted, and excited. Focus on that day now. Really. Now.  The Opportunity of a Lifetime  How you re-open your restaurants will dictate how much success you experience in the future. Like everything else you have dealt with … Continued

How to Cope and Know Your Restaurant Business Will Survive

It started with the feelings we share with people around the world about the COVID-19 threat: shock, grief, disbelief, and fear. And it continued with the undercutting of our belief that working hard, staying smart, and continually improving our businesses would mean continued success. It is more than enough for anyone to handle. Every day, … Continued

How to Protect Your Restaurants in the Age of Coronavirus

In normal times, we avoid talking about safety. After all, why would we want to take guests’ mindset away from the positivity of their experience in our restaurants? But now, with no basketball games? No flights to Europe? And your college kid learning online because classrooms are closed? These are not normal times – and … Continued

The Little Known Golden Rule That Gives Restaurateurs What They Want

I have never met a restaurateur who does not want people to take more ownership, action, and responsibility. But I have met plenty who sabotage themselves every day by actively working against that goal. Many owners of successful independent multi-unit restaurant companies do not yet know how to harness the power of the people they’ve … Continued

Don’t Repeat the Biggest Mistake Made by Multi-Concept Restaurant Operators

The best way to run your second (or third of fourth) concept? Not the way you ran your first. The number one thing restaurateurs get wrong when operating multiple concepts? They superimpose their original concept’s corporate team onto their new one – when maximizing the success of each requires unique leadership, culture, and attitude. It’s … Continued

Restaurateur’s Guide to Overcoming Fear of Growth

In our industry, there’s a lot of talk about brands that grow too fast. I recently wrote about that here. Meanwhile, we don’t talk nearly as much about brands that have the opportunity to grow, but grow too slowly – or don’t grow at all. Those aren’t as prevalent as the grow-too-fast brands, but they are … Continued

Why Accountability Is the Unexpected Key Ingredient for Restaurant Growth

  What is it that kills great plans? Organizations with a lack of accountability. Restaurateurs often start off with big and exciting ideas, fantastic talent, and a great grasp of what they need to grow their business. Ideas, plans, and programs become the wish/vision/dream boards of business – creating infinite possibility and the belief in … Continued

Three Ways Restaurateurs Can Profit from a Downturn

  Since the Great Recession, we’ve seen over 10 years of economic expansion. That means there are a lot of successful operators out there who have never known anything but good financial times. But they’re like the doctors who graduate from medical school without a business course – they’re missing a big piece of what … Continued

How Much Restaurant Profit Is Enough?

  “Why isn’t my restaurant making 20 percent?” I hear this plaintive cry from many frustrated restaurateurs who have heard about that number and – since they’ve heard about it – think they must be entitled to it. Some of my clients’ own restaurants make over 20 percent, or even 25 percent or more. They … Continued

Three Early Warning Signs Your Restaurant Company is Growing Too Fast

You’re out over your skis – going too fast and getting ahead of yourself. You own a successful independent multi-unit restaurant group and your ability to sign leases is outpacing your organization’s ability to perform. Future projections? Dazzling. But you have zero track record at the forecasted level to support them. The Difference Between Praying … Continued

Five Essential Restaurant Predictions for the New Decade 

Welcome to the 2020s!   If you want to make outstanding business decisions, you need to know what’s coming next. So, what will we be dealing with over the next 10 years? I have a few predictions.  1. Rent and Food Delivery Expenses Will Go Down The 2010s will be remembered as the golden age of restaurant … Continued

The Five Best Things I Told You This Year…and Why

I’ve gone back and chosen five especially popular or meaningful posts from this year – the ones my clients, owners of successful multi-unit independent restaurant companies, said benefited them the most.   So, as 2019 turns into 2020, take a moment to see how they apply to you and your business.  1.  The Biggest Restaurant Company … Continued

Three Roadblocks on Your Way to 10 Restaurants

My clients’ DNA must be filled with a longing for growth. At best, this growth adheres to a plan. At worst, owners act like hungry, unruly, science-fiction monsters who can never be satisfied, and grow haphazardly because of it. All of the best restaurateurs I work with – owners of successful multi-unit organizations – focus … Continued

Stop Restaurant Franchising Dreams from Becoming Nightmares

Restaurateurs often contact me, thrilled they have one or two promising-looking units. In their mind they have made a fantastic leap toward having a national group of franchisees that provides them incredible mailbox money with lots of zeros they no longer have to work for. Sure, their franchising dream looks attractive, but even if you … Continued

How Top Restaurants Avoid Shackling Managers with Tasks

Are you and your organization clear on the difference between task and management? Last week, I had three similar conversations with three different clients – all of whom own restaurants and companies anyone would envy. It was like a hazy art film where, no matter where I went, I heard the same voices repeating the … Continued

OK Xers, OK Millennials – Let’s Build the Strongest Restaurant Companies

Compared to where restaurateurs from my generation were when they were in their 30s and 40s, today’s restaurateurs at that age are crushing it! When I work with them, I convince them to move with higher velocity and take advantage of all their ideas, experiences, information, and possibilities. That contrasts with my general advice when … Continued

Why Data Fails in Verifying True Restaurant Success

If the only way you prove your restaurant’s continued success and competitive advantage comes through using data, that’s perilous.    That’s because the most important things in our industry are hard to measure: Culture Morale Guest happiness Service Sure, we have spent a lot of time creating metrics for each of these topics – honestly, … Continued

Leaving Your Restaurant Comfort Zone to Achieve Success

The thing about procrastinators, commitment-phobes, and last-minute people? They don’t know what they are missing. Many of my clients – successful owners of independent restaurant companies – take more than their time in making decisions. Some of them simply hate to make decisions, because making a final decision eliminates all those other amazing options they … Continued

Three Proven Accountability Rules That Raise Restaurant Performance

Your grill cook – the person who prepares that steak exactly to temperature – has a better sense of balance on the grill than you do on accountability in your restaurant. To the visionaries who start their organizations and become the successful multi-unit independent restaurateurs that I work with, accountability does not usually come naturally. … Continued

Restaurateurs: Own Today Like You’re Selling Tomorrow

Always run your restaurants like you are planning to sell them. When someone sells their house, they prepare it to appeal to buyers. They touch up chipping paint, clean stains off the hardwood floors, and plant the nicest flowers in the front yard. That cracked toilet in the third bathroom nobody ever uses? Replaced. The … Continued

How Top Owners Channel Their Inner Salesperson to Create Great Restaurants

Today’s worker has less than zero interest in hearing what their boss wants them to do without context. Smart people sell their decision and ideas.    If you don’t identify as a great salesperson but you want breakthrough results in your dining rooms, you must become a great salesperson. My best clients know this. Whatever exciting idea … Continued

Three Signs Your Restaurant Is Not Unique Enough to Stand Out

“Believe me: I’m extremely aware that I compete with everyone in my segment—and most of the people in the other segments, too!” I often hear those words from people like you: successful owners of multi-unit independent restaurant companies. They live their lives as if everyone competes with them. So a burger concept owner thinks his company competes … Continued

Restaurateur’s 30 Hour Work Week Challenge

If you worked a 30-hour week, what would you do with the extra 10 or 20 hours you just gave yourself?  “Oh, I have a big list – can’t wait to be there. And I’m thinking about calling Matthew so I can be there sooner.”  “Nothing comes to mind, so I’m thinking about not reading … Continued

Making Great Kids and Outstanding Restaurants with the 7 Habits

My second-grade daughter – and all the second-graders in the Dallas Independent School District – are spending time learning the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When Stephen Covey’s book first came out in 1989, it was revolutionary, cutting-edge thought about how to live your life. I used 7 Habits in my business, taking my nightclub management teams … Continued

10 Ways Restaurateurs Give Themselves a Raise

When was the last time you gave yourself a raise? The one you earned for increased performance. I meet a lot of well-known restaurateurs who proudly and confidently identify their businesses as “great.” They’re so great that, at first, they don’t even know why they are talking to me – someone who works to improve … Continued

Proven Method Makes Your Restaurant Team Embrace Change

A friend of mine told me she would enjoy moving every year. Wow! I had not heard that one before. But she abandoned that dream, realizing her kids need a stable home.   I remembered this when my daughter asked me, “Is this our forever house?” She wanted know that her roots—the ones she had … Continued

Restaurateurs This is the Most Important Thing to Do on Labor Day

It’s Labor Day – the holiday dedicated to the American worker. Many people don’t think about the meaning of the day (if they ever knew it in the first place). And that’s what happens to a lot of our holidays. They morph into days of general relaxation and fun. They lose their meaning. And they … Continued

Mistake-proof Your Restaurant’s Move to a New City

When your restaurant concept goes to a new city, you typically go with mega excitement and hella-aggressive confidence. That’s because you know you have something special – like when you bought that gift you knew your partner was going to love. With their first bites, locals will swoon and realize your brand’s superiority. And you have a … Continued

Alert!  Restaurateurs You’re Missing a Step in Your Steps of Service

Using your steps of service strategically to send your guests the right message gives your restaurants a massive competitive edge. My best clients add an element in their steps of service that drives guest engagement, satisfaction, and frequency – and thus revenue. So why do most restaurants miss this opportunity and simply allow their steps … Continued

Restaurant Owners – Don’t Ignore the Signpost to Your Freedom

When you reach a certain level of success, it’s OK to run that victory lap and settle in to being an owner, not an operator. One multi-unit owner I know has done this so well they consider their job “playing restaurateur.”  Be more like them. This transformation is critical for professional restaurant group owners; unfortunately, … Continued

The Surprising Truth About Restaurant Culture

Last week I ran my Ultimate Restaurant Culture Workshop at Texas Restaurant Marketplace in Houston, the second largest gathering of industry professionals in the country. I took attendees through the same process I use with my clients to identify, document, and systematize culture—tools we use to literally scale culture so it remains pure as my … Continued

Top Things Professional Restaurateurs Refuse to Compromise On

For successful restaurateurs, there was a grueling period at the beginning when they really did have to work all the time. The most debilitating mistake people make? They don’t even notice when that time ends, so they keep running that schedule out of habit. Life is full of compromise. If you marry, have a family, … Continued

Join Industry Leaders This Weekend in Houston

If you are anybody in our business in and around Texas, your usual mid-July habit is to head to Texas Restaurant Marketplace. That is where you’ll see new products and hear a wide range of speakers (including me) present new ideas about how to operate your company. Or you might even learn the most by … Continued

Why Top Restaurateurs Focus on Making More at Their Best Locations

Underperforming locations? They’re facts of life in the growth of any brand.  And sometimes they’re just born that way. That’s because site selection has become more science than art, but still has some artistic qualities – and can create a maternity ward for underperforming stores. Then, when owners feed those locations, there’s pain. Nobody lulls … Continued

Meet Me in Houston and Learn Secrets to Make Your Culture Boost Profits

In the past I have proven why culture provides 100% of your profits. That’s a lot. I constantly work with my clients – successful owners of independent restaurant companies – to define their culture in a permanent way. This lets them direct the behavior of their people (i.e., everybody) who serve guests and the people … Continued

When (and When Not to) Grow Your Restaurant Group

Proof of concept. Knowing your restaurant brand has legs – that its single-unit economics can be repeated and repeated and repeated – is like that can’t-fail feeling Hillary Clinton felt the night before the election.   In the end, proof of concept doesn’t prove that success will follow, because no concept has permanent proof. That’s … Continued

How Top Restaurants Increase Revenue in Any Market Condition

Many restaurateurs sleepwalk through writing their budget every year – forecasting menu price growth, inflation, or market growth as a revenue target. The best ones choose to wake up, and do a lot better than that. Revenue can always go up – faster than you expect. Recently, a well-respected restaurant group came to me with … Continued

Why Top Restaurateurs Know There is No Shame in Getting Better

You already know about the missing pieces in your organization. You experience nagging discomfort like a pebble in your running shoe or worse, a self-critical voice that hounds you about addressing them. This will impact you especially if you have a lot of pride in what you have accomplished. Before working with me, some of … Continued

Smart Restaurateurs’ Guide to Hiring Your First Operations Director

Most of my clients guide teams in their multi-unit organizations through their next stage of growth, management development, concept development, branding, or culture. However, a few still are hands-on operators of their own restaurants. When that changes – when we improve everything by hiring the right director of operations  and I educate this new owner/operator … Continued

Top 10 Ways Restaurants Retain Managers

In over 30 years in this business I have never seen anything like it. Restaurant managers. The shortage. Last week I heard about a new restaurant that opened two months late: Everything was ready to go—but there were no managers. You Can’t Order the GM Robot on Amazon…Yet The hamburger-flipping robot may be here, but … Continued

Top 10 Actions That Make People Love Your Restaurant Brand

The smartest restaurateurs know that they are not in the restaurant business—they are in the branding business. According to the Forbes 2018 World’s Most Valuable Brands list, the top five brands are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. However, these brands all experience a red-faced love/hate relationship with the general public. The same people swing wildly … Continued

How Restaurateurs Use Time in Their Dining Rooms to Stay Unbeatable

What do your experienced eyes see when you walk through your dining rooms? The staff fastidiously on task? Dreaded empty tables when you’re on a wait? Your trusted long-time expeditor making sure food does not sit in the window too long? Craving data and KPIs, do you jump on your phone to see how revenue … Continued

Proven Techniques for Growing and Retaining Restaurant Managers

A very talented general manager in one of my client companies looked like the frustration emoji when telling me, “Our weekly operations meetings, it is the same thing every week—it feels like Groundhog Day.” The issue? Getting together yielded no process to develop the people in attendance. Want your managers to stay, and your restaurants … Continued

Strategy Stops Random Restaurant Growth from Undermining You

So you’re not an Olympic gold medalist, a musician with 20 million streams, or a Pulitzer Prize winner? Still want to leave your mark? For successful owners of independent restaurant companies growth looks like something between a hobby and an obsession that they talk about it constantly. They obsess about it because, once they find … Continued

Two Essential Ways Restaurateurs Enjoy Their Time Away

Google the term “work life balance.”  You will get two billion results. That’s fast—and a reminder of why we need work/life balance. Forty years ago, when the term “work/life balance” began to pop up in our conversations, people lived in a telex, mainframe, and WATS line world. So, when people left work, they left work. Today, what … Continued

How Restaurateurs Stay Unstuck and Take Advantage of New Thinking

Most successful people are comfortable with at least some degree of uncertainty. They surround themselves with people who tell them things that, at first, may not even seem true. Other people, though—who have trouble keeping up with the market, the competition, and the changing desires of their guests—become stuck in their ways and fall behind. … Continued

Why Top Restaurateurs Triumph Over Fear and Run Open-Book Companies

We’re used to talking to management teams about store-level profit, restaurant profit, restaurant operation profit, or whatever term we use. You know, the number before occupancy, A&G, depreciation, and amortization. It’s what these people master, your bonus program may be based on, and something they can understand. And it is the wrong thing to do. … Continued

How Restaurants Protect Themselves from Competition by Demonstrating Value

What would happen if you asked a bunch of restaurateurs how they’d react if they consistently received feedback that menu prices were too high? First, you would see them shake their heads in frustration, roll their eyes in disbelief, and face-plant on their dining table as a gesture of heartfelt exasperation. Then you would get … Continued

Proven Methods to Protect Yourself from Gambling on Growth

My favorite time in the restaurant business is any period of growth. The future is exciting. Everything is possible. The smell of carpet glue and fresh paint is in the air. The chance to do it right from the beginning is intriguing and motivating. Common Threads of Restaurant Growth Right now I have clients growing … Continued

The Biggest Restaurant Company Mistakes I Have Ever Seen

“Can you believe my company? I bet you’ve never seen anything like it.” I hear that all the time. “We have things we have not addressed for years. We are successful, but we could be doing so much better.” After almost three decades advising owners of successful multi-unit independent restaurant companies, I don’t see much … Continued

What If An Employee Sent You This Text

What would your employees text you—the successful owner of an independent, multi-unit restaurant group—if they had the chance? Michael Lastoria, CEO and founder &pizza, gave every one of his 750 employees at his 35-units his cell number—and the open invitation to text him. You may have read about him last week in Nation’s Restaurant News … Continued

Your Dining Room: Don’t Work it Like a Car Salesman

Recently I had the pleasure of buying a new car. I did not have a choice—mine got totaled. (We are fine, by the way. No injuries.) Having no idea what I wanted, that meant interacting with lot of car dealers and a lot of car salespeople. Four strange things happened: Two salespeople I met gave … Continued

Read This – Then Change Your Entire 2019 Operating Plan

Whatever your dream is, my wish for you is that you get to live it. At work, at home, in your community. In that spirit, as we start a new year, here’s a gift from me – a free download. Fill out the box below to get my Toolkit for Creating a Dream Restaurant Business. Everyone … Continued