5 Things Restaurant Owners Should Do Every Month
We get it. If you own an independent restaurant, you’re probably the chef, the manager, the host, and the cleanup crew—sometimes all at once. You don’t have much time to pay attention to every business details as you’d like.
Here at huckleberry, we have your back, and put together this handy list of tasks to do.
1. Check your Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews
About 90% of your potential customers read your online reviews before deciding whether to give your restaurant a try.
Which leaves the question: are you reading them? And, even more importantly, are you responding to them ASAP? If not, you’re almost certainly leaving food on the table. (Sorry.) Customers care about being acknowledged, even if it’s a simple, “Thank you so much!”
Of course, you know this already. But it’s easy to leave review responses to another day, especially if your dishwasher is on the fritz and your ticket time just reached thirty minutes.
Ideally, you’d respond to reviews as they show up. But if you just can’t keep up with that pace, a once-a-month sweep of all the review sites can show potential customers that you’re willing to engage with them and to learn from your mistakes.
(And while you’re at it, take a minute to double-check your restaurant listing is still accurate and that your opening hours are correct. It’s the little things that get you.)
2. Conduct an unannounced health inspection
If you’ve been a restaurant owner for a while, you’re intimately familiar with the feeling in your stomach that only happens when the health inspector shows up unannounced. (Hasn’t happened to you yet? Get ready.)
Fact is, the best way to prepare for these inspections is to, well, do lots of inspections.
Doing a “fake inspection” serves many purposes: it gets your team used to surprise inspections, trains your eye for what the health inspector is looking for when they show up, and keeps everyone from getting complacent. If your team has been through a few trial inspections, it’ll be a breeze for everyone when a real inspector shows up.
Word of advice: tempting as it is, make sure your monthly “fake inspection” isn’t always scheduled on the same day at the same time. Your team will catch on quickly and the whole exercise won’t be as effective.
(Here’s more information on conducting your own health inspections and a checklist to download.)
3. Take a hard look at your budget and financials
You know what to do. If your prime cost went up last month, you need to figure out why and make adjustments. This is also the time to count up your individual category costs to see which purchases are putting you over budget. If your “Miscellaneous” column is more expensive than normal, dig into the details. Did something get miscategorized? Are you purchasing supplies you don’t need?
If food cost went up unexpectedly, you might need to research new suppliers or check on your staff to make sure the portion sizes aren’t creeping up.
Lastly - ask your supplier for a discount (or what it would take to get one)! It is free to ask, and maybe something small (like paying a bit faster, or consolidating orders) can get you a big discount.
Above all, keep an eye out for anything strange or out of place. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
Don’t know what unusual looks like? All the more reason to spend time with your budget every month. The closer eye you keep on your records, the more you’ll start to recognize if a line item seems odd.
4. Check in with your people
It’s hard to communicate when everyone’s in the weeds. Once a month, set aside time with each member of your team to get a read on how they’re doing, what’s going well, and how they think the restaurant could improve.
These meetings can be as structured or as unstructured as you like, but good one-one-one meetings generally have two things in common: a clear purpose and a safe environment.
Setting a purpose can be as simple as saying, “Hey, I’d like to know more about how things are going in front of house” or “I wanted to check in to see if there’s anything I can do to support you better.”
Building a safe environment, on the other hand, can’t be done in a single meeting. You should be building trust in every daily interaction. Still, a quick, “I have a few questions, and I’d like you to be completely honest,” can go a long way—as long as you mean it. And the insights you can gain from a straightforward conversation will be more than worth it.
(Here’s some information on how to conduct a great one-on-one.)
5. Finally, take a step back
It’s hard to keep an eye on the big picture when you wear so many hats. So, once a month, you should schedule an hour or two to get an idea of the big picture.
To do this, you’ll need to pull out your original business plan and any planning documents you made for this year and quarter. How close are you to your projections? Where have you stuck to your plan and where have you veered away?
You should also think about how you spend your time. What jobs are you doing that someone else could do? What important tasks are being left undone? If you’re constantly putting out small fires, it might be time to delegate some of your tasks so that you can focus on growing your restaurant.
Hey, we hope this was a helpful rundown! If you own a restaurant, let us know what you do monthly to keep everything running smoothly.
And a quick reminder: if your restaurant is in California, we can get you a workers’ comp quote in about 5 minutes. It’s all easy and online. You can also learn about different types of restaurant endorsements you may need to be fully covered.