Restaurant Owners Wearing Rose-Colored Glasses?

Restaurant Owners Wearing Rose-Colored Glasses

I was watching one of the restaurant make-over shows the other night; either Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine or Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey.  I don’t even remember which one it was.  At the beginning of the show, the guru sits in the dining room and tries five or ten entrees.  Of course, they all suck, that’s what the show is about: going from being a totally suck restaurant to being a respectable food place.  At the beginning of each of these episodes, I think, “how frigg’n blind and stupid can this restaurant owner be?”  Anybody can see that the place looks like crap and that the food is awful.  Just watching the show I can almost smell the awfulness of the place.  “Disgusting” is a word that you hear often on these shows.

Restaurant owners can tend to wear rose-colored glasses when they look at their own places.  We all make excuses for our shortcomings and expect everyone to accept them.  Many restaurant owners have a customer base that does accept them, so they assume that these are universally accepted shortcomings.  The problem is those who aren’t coming to the restaurant because they haven't accepted them.  If too many customers is a problem …then don’t worry about it.  If not enough customers is a problem, some of these flaws could be signaling a lot of potential new customers to stay away.  Many of these things are easy fixes.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’d eat there if it weren’t for _______.” (fill in the blank)   

Tomorrow, leave your restaurant during a slack period, drive around the block, change your hat, put on a wig or a fake mustache, and come back into your restaurant wearing not your rose colored glasses, but your extremely critical glasses.  (Yeah, freak out your staff.)  Pretend that you are looking at the restaurant of your most despised competitor, looking for faults and shortcomings.

Start on the outside, does the place look inviting, is it clean?  Remember, this place is owned by a despised competitor.  When you enter what kind of light and odors hit you in the reception area?  Take copious notes.

Who welcomes you, are they friendly looking (okay, this is a tough one; they are looking at you like you are a lunatic).  But if this were your first visit here, how would this crew strike you: as professional and clean, or as a group who really rather be anywhere else, but obviously, couldn’t get a job anywhere else.  Are you thinking, like I sometimes think when watching the restaurant make-over shows, “who would hire this frigg’n bunch?”  Take a look at the floors, the walls, the dining room layout, the stuff that is supposed to be shiny: would you be proud to own this place?

Next check out the restrooms: you know what to look for there – just remember, you are judging your fiercest competitor’s place, not your own.  Now look at the menu: does it spark your appetite or does it say “if you are starving and don’t feel like going elsewhere this is what we’ve got?”

Okay, you get the message.  You know what else to do.  Maybe you’ll find that everything is perfect, and even though that despised competitor is running this place, it’s pretty good.  Or maybe you’ll find that a few things really should be changed.

Yeah, you are not supposed to run a suck restaurant.  You know this stuff, but sometimes you forget to think about it because there is so much stuff to think about when running a frigg’n restaurant.  So smile, put your rose colored glasses back on, keep the copious notes that you just made, and get back in the kitchen and cook some more frigg’n peas.    

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Comment by Emerald Reilly on January 23, 2012 at 3:02pm

Hi Paul, thanks for the reminder! You bring up a great point and a huge missed opportunity for many restauranteurs who have an average restaurant that could be amazing with a few adjustments. Thanks for the post!

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