Restaurant Doctor Hospitality Resources

Operations Troubleshooting

This minor essay will give you a better idea of who I am, what I have done and, more important, what I can do for you. You will also get an idea of my outlook on the industry. This material is necessarily a bit generic, but I think it can serve as a basis for further discussions. If my philosophy seems compatible with yours, we should discuss how we can work together. But more about that later.

Foodservice operations can be incredibly demanding. Just your willingness to consider options says a lot about your professional commitment. In my experience, the best operators are actively looking for alternatives. Top operators want to correct any situation that keeps them from doing the very best they can for their guests, their staff, their investors or themselves ... and they want that improvement sooner instead of later. Amateurs don't even suspect there may be another way to do it!

In the next few pages, I will share some thoughts on the foodservice industry and how I may be able to help you reach your professional goals in less time and with less effort.

The Game Has Changed

Think about how different the business environment is now than it was when we first started working. For one thing, the nature of the work force has changed. Workers are more sophisticated, better informed, (less educated?) and have more options than ever before. If you can't find people who want to work, maybe it's only that there are not as many people willing to put up with the way our industry typically treats them. Could you hire someone today who would accept the conditions you endured when YOU first started in foodservice? I sure can't.

For another thing, your guests' expectations have changed. How many of your current guests can be satisfied with the same level of service they would accept even last year? Yet how much have your service systems, staff training and basic business orientation really changed to address and keep pace with your guests' new standards?

In spite of these fundamental shifts, most operators, knowingly or unknowingly, still do business substantially the way they have always done it. They have never critically questioned the way they were taught to run a restaurant. The problem is that the people who taught us in the 80's were taught in the 70's by someone who learned it in the 60's. Think about it -- tradition is wonderful, but not everything we have been taught is still relevant.

How Can I Help You?

First of all, I have to confess that I love this business! My first job was at age 14, a summer job washing dishes (by hand!) in a small restaurant on Cape Cod. I received no training and had no idea what I was doing. My memories are of people yelling at each other and the smell of salad dressing floating in the dish sink! Despite this ominous introduction to the industry, I caught the "restaurant bug" and went on to get my degree from the Hotel School at Cornell. I have been in and around the business for almost as long as I can remember, running clubs, resorts, restaurants and institutional operations. I have also been providing ideas and advice to foodservice operations of all types and sizes for over 30 years.

I have learned a lot in my career -- some by doing things right, some by doing things wrong and some by watching the more innovative operators in the industry. It seems that the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. Still, I have managed to gain a fair understanding of what makes restaurants work and gained an ability to pass that understanding along to others.

Now I hardly consider myself an "expert" in the industry. When I was 22 I thought so, but now I cringe when people use that title. I am, however, an incurable student of the business. Because I have been actively looking for better ways to do things, I have developed some methods and attitudes that consistently enable me to do everything I mention in this letter. I'm talking about incredibly potent, common sense approaches to foodservice that I was never taught anywhere in my career. I can share these "secrets" with you and teach you how to use them to get what you want ... every time.

One big advantage is that I don't work in your operation every day so my perspective is different from yours. Because I have no history with your restaurant, I am not limited by the reasons and assumptions that cause things to be done the way they are done. Since I don't share your blind spots (and we all have them), I am better able to cut quickly to the cause of your problem or identify the missed opportunities that can kick your sales into high gear.

If what you are doing isn't working, I can show you why and teach you what will work. The "right answer" is the one that you can implement successfully to give you the results you want. I can also show you how to implement the solution without creating chaos among your staff or confusing your market. The appropriate solution will depend on your depth of understanding, the talent you have on your staff and perhaps, though not usually, on your financial situation.

Would You Like to Increase Your Cash Flow?

In most operations I have seen, a 10% increase is very realistic. The approach most people take to increase cash flow is to reduce expenses. I can certainly help you trim a few dollars of cost, although I find most good operators already do a decent job of controlling expenses. They trim costs in the wrong areas sometimes, but that is easy to correct. However, there are a few areas where I can likely help you see significant cost savings and improved cash flow as a result of gaining new perspectives on old problems:

I can help you reduce your labor cost.
I conduct a seminar around the country called "Reducing Labor Cost." I teach that the trick to cutting labor is to see payroll as a profit center rather than a cost point. After all, you can reduce your payroll cost by 50% if you simply fire half your staff! While there are some simple techniques I use to reduce unnecessary hours, the real key to reducing labor cost is to utilize your present staff in a way that they will increase your sales.

Increase your productivity
I can show you how to structure your organization to naturally bring out the finest work from your staff. Best of all, the more self-motivated your crew, the fewer problems you will have to solve.

Decrease your turnover
Staff turnover is expensive. I can show you how I brought a 300% turnover rate down to 20% within 6 months . . . without a change in wage rates! I can help you understand why your crew leaves and what to do about it. If you are willing to make a few adjustments, I can teach you how to beat the labor shortage by becoming the most sought-after employer in town and how to have a waiting list of people who want to work for you!

In my experience, though, the biggest potential impact on cash flow usually comes through increasing your sales. I only know of three ways to safely achieve a higher sales volume:

Attract more new diners
If your concept has become boring, I can find an exciting new direction that will appeal to a broader market. If your restaurant does not have a clear identity in the market, I can fix it so that people think of you more often. I can show you how to actively create and manage word-of-mouth advertising from your existing guests ... and how to have them saying exactly the things you want them to say!

Bring existing patrons back more often
My first book is called "Restaurant Basics: Why Guests Don't Come Back and What You Can Do About It." This is the only text on restaurant service written entirely from the guest's point of view -- the only perspective that really counts! I can show you how to create an environment that will draw your guests back more frequently. I can help you avoid the service lapses that cause your patrons to become disenchanted and go elsewhere. I can help you create the sort of legendary service that is practically competition-proof.

Offer new services
I can help you identify new products and services to offer your market. Just because you are in the restaurant business does not mean your sales have to be limited by what you can do inside the restaurant.

I suppose you could look at increasing the average check (suggestive selling) as a way to build sales, but I don't consider it a safe option. If you get the sale tonight and lose the guest's loyalty tomorrow, the loss is staggering!

Would You Like to Work Less and Get More Done?

I learned this business the way most people did -- working 16-hour days and 7-day weeks! In fact, I used to be proud of how many hours I could put in. At the height of my madness, I was working 120 hours a week running a condominium hotel in the Virgin Islands! At the time, I didn't see any alternative. The predictable result was that I burned myself out and still didn't accomplish what I wanted. My intentions were good. I just didn't understand.

By contrast, managing my last operation, I usually worked less than 45 hours a week and got twice as much done as I ever had in my life! If there were emergencies, we hardly noticed! I left because my staff was totally running the show ... and doing it as well as I could! The route to this stress-free work environment is simpler than you may think.

If you have been thinking that there must be an easier way to run a restaurant than the way you see most people doing it, you're right! I can show you how smart operators around the country are getting more done in a shorter time with less effort and virtually no stress. You can join a growing group of restaurateurs who have a successful restaurant and a life!

If your first reaction is to say this is impossible, I understand. Consider the possibility that your skepticism arises just because you haven't seen a way to do it, not because it can't be done. If you think that enjoying stress-free foodservice management, spending time with your mate and having time to watch your children grow up is a worthy goal, we should talk.

Would You Like to Become an Expert With People?

In all my training, nobody ever taught me about people and what makes them tick. The closest I ever came was a psychology course. While I have probably run into my share of paranoid schizophrenics and manic depressives, they were not the sort of people I needed to know how to deal with every day. I needed to be effective when dealing with my guests because they bring in the money! I also needed to be effective when dealing with my staff because they did all the work and created the guest's experience. Fortunately, I found the answer to the people puzzle. If you are interested, I can show you how to develop an instant working rapport with anyone, even irate guests ... and how to teach your staff to be equally as effective.

In case you are tempted to write off this "human software" training as superfluous, remember that service will be the restaurant battlefield of the 90's. Your reputation sinks or swims based on how well your staff delivers on the promises you make to the market. Remember too, that your staff will treat your guests the same way that you treat your staff!

Would You Like to Improve Your Guest Service?

It costs far more to get a guest into your restaurant the first time than to get them back. Particularly in a recessionary economy, you cannot afford to let any guests get away! The seminar will show you how to make more money and be more competitive by being able to consistently give your present guests a quality service experience that will cause them to return more often. The material is equally applicable to full service, fast service and institutional operators.

Would You Like a Head Start On Your Competition?

You can get a jump on your competitors by holding an in-house service seminar for your managers, supervisors and staff. I invite you to be part of an increasing number of savvy operators, large and small, who are making a visible commitment to improving their guest service by bringing in outside expertise. In-house programs are an incredibly effective way to accomplish your goals. When you calculate the cost on a per-person basis, an in-house seminar is surprisingly reasonable. Clients also tell me it improves their credibility when the staff hears an industry "authority" validate the things the boss has been telling them all along!

You may have thought this level of personal training was only for the big chain operators, but don't be fooled. Big operators hold customized programs because they are smart enough to spend a little to make a lot. You don't have to be big to be smart. Look at it this way: Let's say that you have guests who normally come in twice a month. If, as a result of what your staff learns in the seminar, they can make these same guests want to dine with you three times a month instead of patronizing a competitor, you have a 50% sales increase! How much extra business would it take to break even on a program?

I can do full-day or half-day programs depending on the target audience, the nature of the subject matter and the results you want to achieve. You might also consider co-sponsoring a seminar with one or two other operators in your area. We can conduct programs over one or two days and you can split the costs with the other participants. I'm sure you know someone you could call. No pressure, but give it some thought.

Why Is The Restaurant Doctor So Effective?

Here are a few reasons you can feel confident about working with me:

I take my own advice.
I am an operator first and a consultant second. The truth is that I would rather be doing it than talking about it. As an operator, I believe my most important job is to learn as much as I can and teach it to my staff, so consulting is just a natural extension of that thinking. Most of my best ideas came in response to problems I wanted to solve in my own operations. I will evaluate your situation as if it were my own and give you the advice that I would take were I in your position.

The main benefit of moving back and forth from consulting to operations is that it keeps me in touch with what works. I am repeatedly reminded of how long it can take to get some things done and the number of balls a restaurateur has to juggle at once. Still, it is encouraging to see that when I take my own advice, it works!

I understand restaurant reality.
I have never worked for a large chain or run a foodservice operation where I had big bucks to spend, so I am not accustomed to solving problems by throwing money at them. In my own restaurants and in all my varied management positions, I have always had to work with limited resources. Still, I always found a way to solve most restaurant problems without a heavy financial commitment.

I also understand that after our time together, I will be gone and you will still be in your restaurant. Therefore, I want to make sure you understand not only what we have done and how to do it, but why it works. It is critical that you be able to maintain the new results over time without me because I do not want to create a dependent relationship with anyone. My goal is to work myself out of a job as quickly as possible. This is why my work usually involves some degree of teaching and counselling. Knowledge is more powerful than ignorance, but understanding is more powerful than knowledge. I want to increase your understanding.

I specialize in independent restaurants.
Many of my peers tell me I'm crazy to work with independent operators. Too many egos, too many amateurs and too little money, they say. The big bucks are with the big operators, they say. This is all good advice and undoubtedly accurate.

Still, there is something about the freedom an independent operator enjoys that I find exciting. I see many more opportunities to be creative when working with the "little guys." Maybe it's just that I like to see real changes happen quickly. Whatever the reason, working with independent restaurants is more fun for me than wrestling with corporate bureaucracies. This perspective may limit my income, but making a meaningful contribution to the well-being of hard-working entrepreneurs is more rewarding than collecting big fees!

I guarantee my results.
A solution that doesn't work is no solution at all. I don't think you should have to pay for something that doesn't work any more than I would expect guests in my restaurant to pay if we had not given them a great time. Accordingly, if you implement my recommendations the way I teach you, I guarantee that within a year you will see additional profit equal to at least twice the fees expended. If not, I will do whatever it takes, at no additional cost, to assure you of those results -- no hassles, no questions asked.

Is This Going to Be Expensive?

People often ask me if consultants are expensive. The correct answer, I suppose, is probably "yes and no." Consultants are expensive if they can't solve your problem (and keep your money), if they disrupt your operation or if they come up with wrong answers. Consultants are also expensive if they come up with the right answer and you ignore it! You cannot afford to retain a consultant if you are not willing to take the advice you receive. In fact, I won't accept you as a client unless I believe there is a good chance your operation will actually change for the better as a result.

On the other hand, consultants are a bargain if they can quickly identify the cause of a problem and help you implement a solution that works. A prompt solution means:

  • fewer disenchanted guests (so your reputation doesn't deteriorate)
  • improved cash flow (so you start getting the additional profit months or even years sooner!)
  • lower staff turnover (so you don't lose your best workers to the competition)

Can you afford to get a problem fixed? If there is something out of line in your operation that interferes with your guest service or affects your cash flow, you can't afford not to fix it!

Where Do We Go From Here?

The next step is to get specific about what results you want to see and what it will take to get them. Call me toll-free at (800) 767-1055 and let's talk it over. There is no charge for this initial consultation.

If we identify a project, I will prepare an engagement letter that outlines our agreement on the work to be done, the desired results, the timing and the budgets for fees and expenses. If you concur, sign the letter and return it with your retainer. We will schedule a time to get started.

If you have never worked with an outside consultant before, I can understand that it might seem like a big step. You don't need to be nervous. I don't chew you out for your mistakes -- I have probably made most of them myself! There won't be any lectures and you won't lose control of your business. You will find the process is more like kicking ideas around with a knowledgeable friend.

We will take things one step at a time. I will be sure you are comfortable with the direction and understand the process. The good news is that within a few months from now, you can gain control over those things in your operation that have been frustrating you.

I appreciate your interest and look forward to the opportunity to help you get what you want.

With best regards,

William R. Marvin
The Restaurant Doctor

PS: Albert Einstein once noted that, "You can't solve a problem on the level at which it was created." Sometimes a fresh perspective can make all the difference.