When Your Growth Plan Is Way Ahead of Your Restaurant’s Operating Capability

If it’s not going great now, why would you want more of not-great?

My brother once asked me, “Has anyone ever opened a restaurant in Dallas they didn’t intend to be a prototype for expansion?”

Well, yes, but he made his point.

For many restaurateurs, growth is inspiration. Most would view having one restaurant – no matter how notable and successful – as a failure. 

It’s exciting when real estate brokers are calling every day, landlords are a-leapin’, investors are waving financing offers, and guests are displaying hunger for your brand – pleading with you in your dining room: “I’m begging for you to open nearer to where I live!” 

But make sure that excitement doesn’t lead to your growth plan exceeding your ability to operate. 

I’ve been advising independent restaurateurs for a long time, and I know that, when a growth plan is moving along faster than operating capability, you must take action before you screw the whole thing up.

Matthew’s Big Five Growth Concerns

I ensure that my clients who are planning for expansion address these five areas of concern – substantially reducing the risks associated with growth: 

  1. Management capability: When management runs the whole business inside the four walls without being reliant on ownership, surprises or calls for backup are rare. 
  2. Financial: Consistent financial results should be evident on every P&L – making owners and investors happy. 
  3. Owner focus: Owners learn to work on only things they must handle, with someone else doing the rest. This allows owners to focus on growth or that much-needed vacation.
  4. Culture: When culture – the secret sauce that makes a restaurant company go – is “bottled,” it can be used as a guide to behavior every day on every shift. This enrolls guests and employees. 
  5. Brand: Define your brand with an optimal message. Ensures guests don’t define you in a way that creates a dangerous vulnerability to competition. 

Plug the Leaks Now Before They Get Bigger

People who struggle think they can grow and wait to handle these later. 

Sure, from a cash-flow perspective, that may seem smart – but it’s a mirage. 

It costs much more to tighten up your restaurant company’s operations after you grow, because a safe full of money leaks out where you can’t see it. Every accounting period.

What are your growth goals? If they are highly defined, congratulations! I applaud your desire to have five, 10, 20, or 30 units or more. 

What is the level of capability in your organization? Are you optimistic, fooling yourself, or certain you are ready?

Either way, smart people check back in detail over the big five issues and measure capability. 

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