Michael Maxwell – Partner, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting
What’s love got to do with it?
Asking the question “is there any place for love in business?” is like asking “is there any place for people who care?” We all believe relationships that have longevity are rooted in love and mutual respect. Since most businesses, including restaurants are built on groups of relationships it only makes sense that love scattered throughout all the daily operational tasks is the key to a successful restaurant. Restaurants can be a force for good and extremely profitable at the same time.
First let’s look at the qualities we associate with love: respect, compassion, empathy, patience, support, passion, collaboration, compromise and investment. Clearly these are also all terms that we associate with successful business practices. I believe they should be applied to three basic areas of restaurant development and operations:
- Creating the Brand
- Training and Developing Employees
- Building Loyal Guests
Have you ever eaten in a restaurant where the food was good and the server did everything right, but you still left underwhelmed and didn’t know why? [pullquote_right]The restaurant with a clear vision and a happy crew is one that can’t wait to share that vision and happiness with their guests.[/pullquote_right]Often restaurants master the mechanics of operations, but forget to give their brand a soul. Every brand should be built on a foundation of beliefs and with a clearly defined mission. Even the one time-one owner restaurant should begin with this foundation. A clear definition of your brand, what it is, why it is different, why it is important, and how it will enhance the lives of the owners, employees and community gives everyone a reason to believe. Restaurants with a soul have a different energy. They make you happy to be there and eager to return. If your restaurant doesn’t have a reason for existence that your market can embrace then you should not open it. Your guests will leave underwhelmed no matter how well you deliver.
Your core values and your mission are particularly important to employee longevity by giving them something to believe in, helping them to understand how they will be treated and how they in turn should treat their guests. Surveys show that salary and wages fall low on the scale when employees are asked what makes them happy on the job. Things that rank high include appreciation for their work, good relationships with their colleagues and good relationships with their employers. What this really says is get to know your people. Know what motivates them and how they like to be treated. Always be respectful even when disciplining. It also says give your employees the opportunity to get to know you. If they are allowed to understand what is important to you and see your belief structure in your daily interactions you have suddenly created a work environment where everyone has common goals. As an owner or a manager, it is never wrong to allow your employees to see your human side. A simple “I’m sorry, I was wrong” is not a sign of weakness but may instead be a shining moment in creating respect. It will also buy you the same apology from your employees when they are wrong.
The restaurant with a clear vision and a happy crew is one that can’t wait to share that vision and happiness with their guests. As Millennials step into the distinction of our largest consumer population we find ourselves catering to a group that values being appreciated and acknowledged more than any other generation. Guest surveys show that patrons are willing to pay 25% percent more for a meal if they are ensured a friendly staff who cares about their happiness. Just going through the motions will not buy you loyal guests. Getting to know them and caring about them will. When you earn loyal guests you also earn free marketing through word of mouth, social media shout-outs and online reviews.
In the stress of day-to-day operations we often forget how important our restaurant is in the lives of others. For owners, it is a dream come true to be nurtured and cherished and a way of providing a good life for their family. For our staff, it is a place to learn life skills, receive some parenting, develop their own life goals, realize self-worth and prioritize what is important in life. And for guests it is a place to get away from troubles, meet with friends, feel warm and welcomed and celebrate victories small and large.
So, if the question is “is there any place for love in business?” the answer is there is no place for business without love. We think we are in the food business, but we are actually in the people business. A little love goes a long way.