I Fix Broken Restaurants
Written by: Tom House
Restaurant consulting is always challenging, and just when I think you’ve seen it all…something new happens! I love my “work”, but I prefer starting a new consulting job from a construction site. It is usually better to begin from scratch, this way I have a chance to set everything up properly based on my forty four years of hospitality experience and knowledge. I call this “Dumpster to Day One”. If the new consulting job is an existing restaurant, that’s a whole different animal! I approach both these scenarios in two different ways.
For existing restaurants I typically visit several times “undercover” (for a separate fee) to observe exactly what is happening. This helps me to ascertain exactly why they want and need to hire me in the first place. I then write a time-stamped, wide ranging report detailing service issues, management problems and short-comings, potential theft and general organization and efficiency problems that I observed, and turn it into my new prospective employers before even starting the job. Sometimes I damage some egos and do not always get hired after I deliver the report, hence the separate fee. Either way I deliver the truth, and some people just can’t handle the truth!
The second way is to come in to the existing restaurant and just start working without warning, (after meeting with the owners of course). Upon arrival I hold an impromptu meeting informing the entire staff that I am starting as a consultant and will, for all intents and purposes, be working as a General Manager during my tenure. If there is already a GM on the job, he or she must be willing to work alongside me harmoniously without personal issues arising sooner or later.
At existing “broken” restaurants that just want and need to be “fixed”, I inherit all the bad and the good that has been going on at the establishment previously. On the first week of a job like this, I advise the employees to operate the way they normally do so I can observe and learn before jumping in and making any changes. After a few days of observation, I pretty much know the direction I will be heading as I set out to fix yet another “broken restaurant”.
When I start at a restaurant that is being built from scratch or a complete renovation, one of the first things I do is create a giant list of the hundreds of things that will need to be done. Then I rent a dumpster! That is the beginning of many new relationships I will create for the new owner and his future management team. Setting up phone service and cable television is usually quite time consuming, so I like to start that early. I also begin an intense social media campaign immediately, including setting up Facebook and Twitter pages. Next a logo and a website need to be created, as it is important to make a complete connection on line allowing potential customers the opportunity to discover and LIKE your business on the worldwide web!
Finally I begin the planning process for how to make the future restaurant an easy place for servers and chefs to work, enabling employees to give efficient service to future customers. As the restaurant is being built around me, I begin the hiring process, purchasing china and glassware, creating menus with the chef (if they have a chef already), floor plan and bus station layouts, meeting with POS salesmen and deciding which computer system to use, meeting with liquor and food purveyors, possible advertising and sometimes even hiring a publicist. This is only a short list, as there is so much more…but hopefully you get the idea. This job is much tougher when the restaurant is opening ithout a qualified chef already. Typically that hiring process will be handled by me typically too.
Last on the agenda is deciding when the restaurant will open. Some of this is beyond our control due to construction permitting and city issues that vary from county to county and state to state. One of the toughest things to procure and clearly the most important is the Certificate of Operation, or CO. Many inspections from the fire and health departments, and code enforcement too come into play here, and the politics of dancing are on full display. Don’t forget about The Americans with Disabilities Act which has never been stricter! One job I did earlier this year in a location we were renovating had to completely remodel the bathrooms to the tune of $50,000 in order to be in compliance!
Next time you hear the term restaurant consulting you’ll have a better idea of just how intricate it really is. Television shows like Restaurant Impossible give the public an excellent glimpse into what it takes to fix broken restaurants. Watching those shows is fun, and Robert Irvine (Food Network’s Host of Dinner Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, and the hit show Restaurant Impossible). is excellent at what he does! I love his show Restaurant Impossible, and recommend you follow Robert on Twitter at @robertirvine1. One of the most revealing aspects of his show is that you can see just how much love and money restaurant owners put into their dreams, and how heartbreaking failure can be. There is always a happy ending (so far), as Robert and his design team fix another broken restaurant week after week. Love it! As far as them doing the entire job in 48 hours for a mere $10,000.00 …I have my doubts about that.
These restaurant pipe dreams are not for everyone! This is one of the toughest, most competitive businesses out there, and definitely not for weak hearted people, those whose pockets are not very deep and whose egos are too large. One of the first things I tell prospective clients is to go put their egos in the car and come back for our first meeting. Many of the points I will highlight will hurt their feelings, but it is necessary to do so, and get their eyes opened for usually the first time.
Contact me at the e-mail below if you have a “broken restaurant” that needs fixing, or are thinking about opening a new restaurant! A Better House, Inc. is at your service! firstname.lastname@example.org – Check out and LIKE our Facebook page and Follow along on our Twitter page too! new website coming soon.