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Your Restaurant And Your Mattress

Fixin’ what ain’t broken: my mattress theory

No matter how old and used up and out of date your mattress is, when you’re tired it feels excellent.  It gets the job done and provides a quiet night of solitude.  It’s only  when you are not very tired, or you’re changing the sheets or reading a book or doing the whoopy do you think, “this mattress needs to be replaced!”

The same thing happens with your restaurant’s service.

Yes, it gets the job done.  It is reliable, worn in and comfortable.  But sometimes you need to take a step back and say…”this service is kind of old.  I think we should replace it.”

Most things come with a warranty, so why didn’t your service plan?   “Good for 1 year.”  Or, “Bring back to place of purchase if faulty.”  Or, “Receive free updates quarterly.”  It should not have read “Good forever because it’s just that good.” You would never buy something if you thought you couldn’t update it when it got shabby so why are you happy to leave your service “as-is” after all these years?

What if Apple implied that they were never going to improve or modify their products?  Would they be as successful as they are today?

Here’s the last iPhone…it’s as good as it’s gonna get.

Everyone should aim to improve their restaurant.

With all of the competition, established and new, it’s silly not to.  But sometimes just because you want to make something better doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to make it better (Why do you think there are thousands of busy marriage counselors?)

One of my favorite ways of deciding what you actually expect of your restaurants service is keywords and key phrases.

All you need is some time and a paper and pen.

Think about your restaurant.  

From the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave and every operation and procedure in between.  Observe your guests…I mean, really observe your guests.  Watch your servers.  Listen to your kitchen brigade.  Look at the food you serve.

After some serious contemplation or observation, write as many keywords or key phrases as you can that accurately describe your current restaurant. Don’t hold back.  Write down the good and the bad, but write them down!

Next, imagine your dream shift in your dream restaurant. Imagine the perfect restaurant.

All guests are happy.  They compliment the atmosphere, the food, the drink, the timing, the server, and *a-hem…the manager. The servers are helpful and happy.  Everyone makes good money.  There are no complaints. The kitchen is in a good mood.  It’s a great, damn near perfect restaurant.

Now just like with your first list, just write down the keywords or key phrases  that describe the restaurant that you desire to have–your ideal restaurant.


Fill the gaps.

As simple as this exercise is, it has just provided you the most excellent tool for changing your restaurant and realizing it’s potential.  Now all you have to do is some work.  Aaaggghhhhhhh!

How-how-how can you get your restaurant to where you want it to be?  I call this filling the gaps.  You now know where your restaurant is at; you have a list of keywords.  You have a list of descriptive words that tell you.  And you also know where you want to be.  You have descriptive words for that too.  Now, how do you get there?

Who-who-who can help you get there?  The owner?  The manager?  The lead server? The chef?  Need ideas?  Read about service education , how to do it and who can help you.

When-when-when can you start?  Can you hold a meeting with someone today?  Tomorrow?  Right now?

Why-why-why would you do this?  Because I think every restaurant should be better.  No matter how good they are, they can be better.  Whether it is food timing, comradery,  procedure, scheduling, food knowledge, cocktail and spirit knowledge…  I think you and your staff deserve to go to work and be happy, have a smooth shift, and have happy guests.  But, its not about what I think, it’s about what you think.  What do you think?  Why would you make changes?  Why wouldn’t you?

Would you like to give me any tips on how to change service?

Contact me or add a comment below and sign up for my newsletter where you’ll receive weekly, actionable and thought provoking restaurant management ideas.

Here is a quick version of a list.


  1.  Slow drinks
  2. Over staffed
  3. No training
  4. Old tables
  5. Dirty menus
  6. Part timers


There are a lot of bodies not doing a lot of work. There is no training about the food or the drink and it seems like everything is dirty.

Better restaurant

  1. Quick drinks
  2. Running lean and strong
  3. Weekly training
  4. Bright, cheerful tables
  5. Clean, updated menus

I see a restaurant that is clean and organized with a smaller staff that is always busy…not too busy, just busy.

Fill the gaps brainstorm

  • If I could assign everyone the task of studying one spirit or drink while they wait for tables every shift, and then once a week hold a meeting where they teach everyone else what they have learned, we could have a more knowledgeable service team!
  • There are so many extra servers, I think if we assigned one to clean the menu’s before every shift, that would be helpful.
  • We could make it a new rule where “if you see drinks up at the bar, YOU MUST RUN THEM!!!
  • I could ask all of the servers if any of them have a flair for interior decorating.  I could have a meeting with them and brainstorm some cheap and creative ideas to replace or update our old tables.
  • I could watch everyone with these new changes, and the servers who are against it will be encouraged to leave.  That way we can have an enthusiastic and leaner team.

Jennifer, iamWaitress on Google+!

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