Why Top Restaurant Operators Move Forward With Their 2021 Planning Retreat

Last week I spoke to multiple operators who reflected on the process they used a year ago to set their goals for 2020 – and how those goals currently lie in a hundred pieces on the floor due to COVID-19.

Usually around this time of year, I talk to my clients about planning for next year: budgeting and setting specific goals for culture, management and staff development, marketing, PPA, quality, retention, and service.

But what about now, in this unprecedented mess of a year, as we move toward 2021?

You Have to Plan

John Lennon once sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Does that seem relatable in 2020?

The beginning of the crisis made us all reactive – we dropped into a foreign land and had to write our own guidebook.  

Some of my clients had anticipated launching new budgeting and accountability processes with me this past year.

But then COVID hit, and we immediately had to abandon that work because we had no idea what the rest of 2020 would bring.

And things still seem to change every day, making that type of reactivity – even seven-plus months into this crisis – very understandable.

You absolutely can’t go into 2021 without any plan at all – even if, “We don’t have any (insert your swear word here) idea what is going to happen next year anyway.”

As we dig deeper into the crisis, that kind of attitude is becoming outmoded.

Operators buying into it risk making a huge mistake that will hold them back for years.

The Steps to Take

Uncertainty aside, you can still plan for 2021; you just won’t have certainty about the top line. So:

  1. Forecast revenue with several different scenarios.
  2. Plan cost management.   
  3. Understand cash flow and when you may need more capital – either from the government, a bank, or another source.
  4. Establish specific activities in the areas of culture, management and staff development, marketing, PPA, quality, retention, and service.

To each of these, attach a specific set of results you want. Then, just like in any year, check back during 2021 and hold yourself accountable.  

We all believe that, by this time next year, the budgeting and planning process will look more like ones that have been typical throughout our careers.
I’ll happily write to you about that next year – believe me!

For now, though, your restaurants must have the best year they can in 2021, whatever happens.

Over to you. Don’t cancel your annual planning process. You may have to do it on Zoom instead of in person, but commit to what you can control in 2021. 

Restaurant companies that do this will come out way ahead of the ones who stay reactive as we survive, stabilize, and dominate.