Restaurateurs Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Losing Guest Focus

Once, at a client’s weekly operations meeting, I waited and waited to hear someone speak the word “guest.”

I heard about production, maintenance, organization, policies, personnel, money, and training.

Surely, one of the 10 experienced managers at this mature, legacy-brand, high-volume unit would talk about something they had done for a guest, something they had heard from a guest, or something that would make things better for the guest.

But that time never came.

Are you falling into the same trap?  Do survival instincts you’ve honed over the past few years – years that forced you to work on keeping your business open, navigating government grants, and dealing with supply chain and commodity inflation – take you out of the habit of guest focus?

At that client, I gave them a rule to follow in future weekly operations meetings: No one was allowed to say anything unless they could complete their sentence with the phrase, “and the benefit for the guest is…”

This group’s focus transformed – from administration to guests – and their once-plateauing revenue began to rise.  

Take the Guest Focus Challenge

Cost management, HR, LOIs, purchasing, investor relations, construction documents, and financial analysis make up a large part of a restaurant owner’s portfolio.

My challenge to you, though: Never complete a day without devoting time to the guest.

Set an example about guest focus for all of the people in your company, and support innovation and attention that bonds guests to your brands and brings them back more often.

That increases revenue and net worth (there’s that financial analysis piece again).

Matthew’s Checklist of Top 10 Guest Focus Restaurant Owner Activities

  1. Dine in your restaurants, critically, and leave notes for the operators.
  2. Single out an associate who exemplifies guest focus and great service.
  3. Authentically praise somebody for great survey data or mystery shop data.
  4. Join a pre-shift meeting and remind your team about the power of guest focus.
  5. Acknowledge trainers for the work they do to prepare your people to make guests happy.
  6. Talk to your guests. They want to know you.
  7. Dine in a competitive restaurant and take notes about what they do better.
  8. Devote time, energy, and money to modernizing your training systems into e-learning.
  9. Start meetings with a conversation about guest focus before you move on to other topics.
  10. At the end of your day, reflect on whether you devoted sufficient time to making guests happier.

Everyone looks to you for cues about how they ought to behave. When you adopt a steady stream of guest focus behaviors, people imitate you like a child copies their parents.

Guests, the only people who pay money into your business, become winners here.