How Top Operators Position for Post–Pandemic Success Through Competitive Set Knowledge

Any conscious operator who wants to ace the everyday test of business knows the answers to these two questions:

  • What about your competitors makes you admire them – and makes you work harder to improve?
  • What makes your own business stand out from your competitive set?

Most owners of successful independent restaurant companies will tell you they know about their competition.

In reality, many have no idea.

If that last bit describes you, and you want to dominate your segment in the future, correct that now.

Not Necessary to Hire a Corporate Spy

You do not need an elaborate industrial espionage plan, or to penetrate a firewall designed to keep Chinese hackers out.

How long has it been since you dined at one of your competitors? Or ordered online or received a delivery from them? Studied their menus and social media?

How much do you really know about the changes they made during the pandemic that may or may not eclipse yours?

Every Filled Stomach Generates Valuable Information

When I work on an initiative to increase revenue, sharpen branding and marketing, or boost service and offerings, there comes a point where my clients and I tour the competition.

Pacing ourselves through eating two or three lunches or dinners a day (admittedly a challenge for the digestive system), we learn.

And we always learn something valuable.


It typically turns out that my clients – the ones who nodded and swore they know about their competitive set – have not been in those competing restaurants in years.

Or, in many cases, ever!

Sure, this kind of research forces us to endure some admittedly mediocre (or extremely less-than-mediocre) meals.

In exchange for that, though, we get to identify one detail that their guest, staff, or investors love.

We may proudly and thankfully pat ourselves on the back to confirm our greatness. That does not help the condition of our restaurants, but it does make us feel a lot better.

And some of those meals and experiences rise to the level of excellence – inspiring us to humbly and rapidly make adjustments.

Systematize Knowledge of Your Competitive Set

Top organizations use my system of keeping on top of the competition, which involves not only ownership and multi-unit people but also general managers and managers – constantly venturing out and gathering, documenting, and sharing knowledge about the competition.

Over to you. What will you do to build your knowledge about your competition? How will that help you pursue greater success and domination of your segment in the future?