4 Steps to Regain Control of Your Bar or Restaurant

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Standards. That’s a word we throw around quite liberally in the restaurant industry. We all know what a standard is supposed to be, yet it seems like we spend a lot of time trying to get the other people on the team to actually follow them.

Maybe we need to get clear on what a standard really is. Look it up in a dictionary and you’ll find this:

  1. A level of quality or attainment.
  2. A required or agreed level of quality or attainment.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Then why do you have a hard time getting your team to adhere to your standards? It’s because you keep moving the bar for your standards.

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Here’s something to remember: A standard is called a standard because, well, it’s standard. It’s not a flexible option. You have to draw a line in the sand and set the standards where you want them. Then, they must be followed as if Moses himself bought the tablets down from the holy mountain and proclaimed them as commandments.

Yeah, it’s that serious.

Step 1: List Your Nonnegotiable Standards

Clarity is powerful. However, in this industry we tend to have a lot of what can be described as assumptions, unwritten rules that have been passed along verbally from the days long ago, before gluten-free became a thing.

Get out a piece of paper or your mobile device and start compiling a list* of everything in your restaurant that’s a nonnegotiable. Really go for it and write like you’re possessed! Channel that inner Gordon Ramsay for a few minutes and cut loose. This first list is for your eyes only, so go crazy.

*Note: Many have said that this exercise is very therapeutic.

Once you work out all your frustrations, go back through and clean up your list. By clean it up I mean run it through the filter of reality. If you had “being late for a shift” on your list, it’s going to be very hard to enforce. Sometimes people are late and sometimes it’s beyond their control.

Now, if a person has a habit of being late, we have something to talk about. That should be a nonnegotiable: We will not tolerate chronic tardiness. Then define what you mean by chronic. It could be three times in a week, or 5 times in a pay period. You need to set the expectations so they’re crystal clear.

Check this out: How a Code of Conduct Can Save Your Bar or Restaurant

One you’ve cleaned up your list and transformed it into something you know the team (and you) can live by, it’s time to move on to step two.

Step 2: Get Buy-in From Your Team

You can’t just give your team this list and expect everyone to follow it. If you do believe that, I have some swamp land in Louisiana to sell you. No, it’s not going to be that easy. In fact, it’s going to be a battle.

Why? Because the team most likely hasn’t had to be accountable to your standards in a while and they have, quite frankly, become lazy when it comes to change. That’s the funny thing about change: People don’t like it. Getting your team to change course is going to be like herding cats! And we know what a challenge that can be.

So, what can you do? Find allies within your team. You don’t need everyone to hop on the change train at once. You need to look for the team members who have influence on the others. These are most likely the alpha dogs of the group. Get a strong alpha to buy into your standards and your change game will be a lot easier; the best way to create culture change in a short time is to get the alphas onboard with the new standards.

To get them on your side you’ll want to speak with them privately. Ask them for their help. Tell them why you’re making the changes and how they’ll benefit. Everyone is usually tuned into radio station WIIFM: What’s In It For Me? Be careful to avoid telling them what to do—you need to sell them so they’ll want to jump onboard.

Check this out: The Traits of an Outstanding Team

After you have a few of the alphas committed to Team Change, then and only then are you ready to roll these new nonnegotiable standards out to the rest of the team.

Step 3: Watch Your Behavior

If you thought this was going to one of those “do as I say, and not as I do” kinds of posts, I’m sorry to disappoint you. One of the major flaws in today’s restaurant and bar world is the rampant display of management hypocrisy.

We want other people to make guarantees to us and yet we don’t make guarantees to ourselves! When you say one thing and do the opposite as a manager, you damage your reputation because you lack integrity. Lose that and losing trust won’t be far behind. Once trust is gone, your team is gone.

So, before to get too far down this standard rabbit hole, you better make damn sure it’s a path to which you’re fully committed. Once you pull the trigger on this and implement your standards, your team will be watching you like a hawk.

Check this out: How Fear Holds You Back from Dominating Your Market

Oh, and don’t think it stops at the restaurant or bar. Many (if not all) of your team members follow you and your managers on social media. Let’s say there’s a manager who talks a big game about not tolerating people who steal, yet they post a late-night picture of themselves at the restaurant making a batch of spiked punch for a party they’re having at their house the next day, using the alcohol they took from your bar. Good bye, integrity and trust.

Step 4: Hold People Accountable

Here’s where this standards game goes awry. We all want to say we’re the leader until it’s time to step up and do what real leader does—lead!

You must hold the line when it comes to the standards and nonnegotiables. You must be committed to following through on this or you’ll be nothing more than a dog that has a loud bark and no bite.

When someone violates a standard, they must be made aware of it as soon as possible. That means you’re going to need to have a face-to-face conversation. Don’t send a text, email, or pass them a note (this isn’t high school). You need to be the leader and have an open, honest conversation with them.

Here’s the easy way to do it. It’s like ripping off a bandage—do it quickly!

  1. Have the list of standards (nonnegotiables).
  2. Tell them which standard or standards they violated.
  3. Ask them why they didn’t adhere to the standard or standards.
  4. Tell them that in order to move the restaurant to the next level, you and the team can’t tolerate behavior that violates and of the standards.
  5. Have them sign a disciplinary action form saying they’ve been made aware of the transgression(s) and what the consequences are if they repeat that behavior. Of course, if the violation was extreme or serious (theft, sexual harassment, drugs, etc.) you must terminate them immediately.

Swift and consistent counseling when people violate the standards isn’t something you do to invoke fear into the culture. It’s what you do to instill trust, accountability, and respect into your culture.

Everyone lets the standards slip—it’s human nature to get comfortable. When you see yourself slipping you must pull yourself out of the nosedive that’s taking you straight toward mediocrity. For many, that’s a dive from which they can’t recover.

Check this out: These 8 Steps Will Help You Fix Your Bar or Restaurant

Like cancer, early detection is the best cure. If the standards in your bar or restaurant are have slipped, take action today to correct course. Like, act immediately! Seriously, stop reading and get to work writing out your list of nonnegotiable right now!

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