From birth through adulthood, we undergo check-ups to gauge our state of heath, either routinely or during illness. Vital signs from temperature to reflexes and respiratory function to heart rate are indicators of well-being. Should an ailment be discovered, an intervention by way of diet, exercise or medical treatment is prescribed to bring us back to good health.
Businesses too have their own vital signs that must be checked during their start-up, growth or ill health. To maintain good health and to survive, they too must have the right diet (work culture) and exercise (practices) to prevent ailments; and should illness occur, treatments must be developed to bring them back to good health. Business fatality being prevalent in the restaurant industry, it becomes even more necessary to stay alert to its state of wellness.
Air-Flow: Ensure that fresh-n-cool air flows into and hot-n-stale air flows out of the dining area and kitchen to establish the comfort of your guests and staff. Insist on regular servicing of the HVAC system to manage the continual efficiency of these flows.
Water-Flow: Make provisions for the inflow of fresh water to drink, cook and clean, and for dirty water to carefully flow out for disposal. Keep an eye on this to safeguard hygiene and safety standards within your restaurant.
Fuel-Flow: Arrange for the uninterrupted flow of electricity, gas and other fuels into your restaurant to assure its smooth operations. Track and measure avenues for the leakage or wastage of fuels to clinch control over their consumption. Frequently service these lines and the equipment along them, not just for safety but for energy efficiencies as well.
Material-Flow: Support the inflow of food & non-food items of the right quality at the right price and segregate, measure and dispose wasted items appropriately. Conduct timely audits that highlight leakages in the system and help tighten material costs which are inevitably of direct concern to restaurateurs.
People-Flow: Arrange for the easy traffic flow of guests, vendors and staff, both vehicular and on foot, outside as well as inside your restaurant. Document and follow the best practices to deal with people of all these categories thoughtfully, from their very first point of contact with your restaurant till the end of their experience with your brand. This will allow for a more humane interaction, rather than the association simply being a monetary transaction. Capture and respond to customer feedback, treat vendors fairly & pay them on time, drive initiatives in individual staff development as well as team building to support the likelihood of humaneness having a positive impact on the smooth operations of this “people industry”.
Money-Flow: Introduce the right amount of cash into your business at an economical capital cost & on time. Ensure that enough value has been added to your purchases and that your final product and services are being provided to your guests at a selling price perceived as good value for money, so as to be able to turn a profit. Guarantee that the loaned amount flows back out of the business with the correct interest and on time. Audit money flow regularly to track this resource and help initiate improvements that facilitate better availability and protection of cash within the system.
Thought-Flow: Uphold the presence of thought that remains steadfast to your restaurant’s vision, yet nimble enough to change based on the need of the hour. Encourage a continual infusion of fresh thought flowing into your business though a work culture that strengthens sharing. Inspire policies and practices that reward innovation & savings, and that help create & maintain a culture that stimulates the inflow of productive thought, and have a direct impact on the attitude of its people.
Imbalances in the flow of any of the vital signs mentioned above will either cause imbalances in your basic operations or more significantly... at times threaten the very survival of your organization.
Follow-up on equipment maintenance contracts doggedly, get your staff medicals done routinely, take them out on a picnic annually, write back to your guests or call them to ask what you can do better, audit your material management systems regularly etc. These are just a few of the things you can do to keep your restaurant alive and well.
Whether I visit an existing restaurant to bring in efficiencies or an empty space to assess its suitability to start a new restaurant, I map all these vital signs to first gauge the heath of their “flows”. I have found this to be a sound basis for diagnosing restaurant problems – existent or potential – and a good starting point to find holistic business-health solutions.