Why Restaurateurs Need Strategy and Laugh at Themselves When it is Missing

Not long ago I had lunch with a respected industry leader who is well known in his market for his career-long success in restaurant ownership over two different brands. Over that time, he has experienced more than his share of peaks and valleys.

We were in one of his most successful restaurants, talking about my research, which has revealed that capability, opportunity, and strategy — surrounded by an atmosphere of trust — are the key elements to independent restaurant company success. Combined, these factors not only enable the achievement of a vision or something greater than you can even currently imagine, they also maximize business valuation, your net worth, and the quality, flexibility, and enjoyment of your life.

Strategy is the Foundation That Leads to Profits

That is when he started laughing, almost falling off his chair. He looked at me as if he had a revelation. “Strategy!” he told me as he smiled incredulously. “We don’t have any strategy!” He had realized that he signed leases and made deals to open new units on a case-by-case basis without the discipline of a framework to build on — and doing that for a whole career had implications that were huge in terms of unrealized potential.

Strategy tells you how you are going to get from where you are now to where you want to go. It focuses and directs you. Without it, you are running a random business.

What is your strategy? Is it optimal? How does it support your professional and personal goals? Follow my checklist below to find out:

Ten Elements of Independent Restaurant Company Strategy:

  1. You have the vision to see the potential of your business.
  2. You have an understanding of the market’s future and how your concept will remain strong in changing conditions.
  3. You understand all aspects of what you need to realize that potential.
  4. You have people in place to get your organization where it needs to be to support expanded operations.
  5. You know how to make people understand your brand to attract new guests.
  6. You know where your concept fits compared to your competitive set, and you focus on that.
  7. You know what expansion sites will work for your new units based on Elements 5 and 6.
  8. With your senior management team in place, you are ahead of the curve with a platform for growth.
  9. You are satisfied you have everything in place to mitigate the risks of growth.
  10. You understand how to keep your best people motivated, excited, and loyal.

How does your organization rate on these ten factors? Would improving on them have a positive impact? Where do you start to get better? When are you going to do that?