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 to say that anymore; instead, let’s put that mayhem behind us and operate our restaurant to standard.”

The lesson? These days, if you hear yourself say, “We are in a crisis,” to yourself and your team, I suggest you stop.

Breaking the Routine Has Become Routine

When the COVID-19 crisis started, you broke all your routines – and became hyper-aware of everything going on around you.

It was like moving into a new house, when you actually have to think about how to drive home instead of relying on your subconscious. 

Four-plus months into this crisis, the break in the routine has itself become routine.

Because, honestly, people can stay on high alert for only so long.

Now that we know this crisis will take many seasons on the calendar, it’s time to settle into smart habits and behaviors.

How to Operate Now

The best restaurateurs know not to be COVID-19 wartime generals anymore; they go back to leading great organizations and people.

Similarly, the best operators take themselves out of crisis mode and navigate the terrain seeking a more permanent condition.

They create new routines.

They go back to delegating decisions and work to the people in their companies and restaurants.

They see the strengths and weaknesses in their operations directors, CFOs or controllers, marketing specialists, general managers, and managers.

They have mentally reset how to operate in the future.

Observe Yourself and Your Organization

  1. How does your organization rely on you? Do people wait for you to give them direction or contribute great ideas?
  2. What have you learned about your organization’s capability during this crisis?
  3. Have your outside advisors stepped up to work miracles? Or have they offered little?
  4. How will you operate in the coming months to set up your organization for a level of post-COVID success that exceeds your pre-COVID success?

A major league baseball season 60 games long played in stadiums populated by cardboard cutouts of people in the stands, with sounds of crowd noise from a video game? Not normal.

Except that started last week.

Restaurants are not exempt from that level of weirdness.

Today is another day in the crazy town where we live.

The same leadership that moves you through this mess allows you to dominate once it ends – whenever that happens.

How do you lead, orchestrate, and organize your team to an eventually successful future?