Be great at what you do.

The restaurant business is hard, and all the competition can make it downright scary. How can you make your restaurant stand out in the sea of competing restaurants—other independents and the overbearing chain restaurants? If I were to count the number of restaurants, just restaurants—fast food, fine dining, full service—in a 2-mile radius from my house, that number would be easily over 100.

The simple answer is do everything you can to do Restaurant 101 right. That means:

  • Hot food hot, cold food cold
  • A clean and safe environment for your guests and employees
  • WOW customer service
  • Incredible product and beverage in the restaurant and for all to-go orders

As a restaurant owner you were put on this earth to create memories. It’s a privilege to be able to create that for your customers. It’s your duty to make sure your restaurant kicks butt and delivers the greatest experience possible.

Hot food hot, cold food cold

This refers to putting out consistent product. See, many chain restaurants kick our ass because while they may suck, they suck the same way every single day. They are consistent in sucking. Making sure that if the food is supposed to be hot, it’s hot, if it’s cold, it’s cold. You want the presentation, the portions and the flavor to be the same every time a customer eats it. I would make this one of my highest priorities in my business.

A clean, safe work environment

That means you need to implement checklists for everything that you do for opening and closing side work for every position, from managers down to your bussers and dishwashers. Don’t leave anything to chance. Ensure the restaurant is not only spotless, but it is set up perfectly so that the guests notice nothing but each other when they walk in the door, when they dine with you and when they leave. Make it a flawless experience.

WOW customer service

I have the perfect book to teach you what I mean by WOW customer service for your restaurant. It’s called “Secret Service: Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer Services,” and it’s by John R DiJulius, III. He’s a customer service expert. I love this book because it focuses on what restaurants do to create WOW customer service. As he tells you, WOW customer service makes price irrelevant. It is a must read to take your guest experience to the next level.

Incredible food and beverage

Be great at what you do. Do not have 9,000 things on your menu. Instead, have a condensed menu that when you execute an item, when it comes out, it’s fantastic every single time. Think about it this way. When you go out to your favorite restaurant, do you even look at the menu? I don’t. I order the one thing that’s incredible, and every time I get it, it’s that damn good, and it keeps me coming back. How many times have you veered off and said, I’ll try this other thing, then it’s not as good, and you think, man, I should have just stuck with what I know? When you create raving fans of your food and beverage, when they come back, they expect the same experience, that consistency, again every single time.

Make your to-go orders just as good as in the restaurant. The genie is never going back in the bottle. You have delivery apps, your own delivery, and pick up to go. Your food is leaving your restaurant in to-go form now and forever. You need to make sure what you’re selling will travel the right way and have the right packaging. If you put a burger and fresh cut French fries all in a Styrofoam container and it travels 20 minutes, plus transfer times, there’s a rainforest in that container when it is delivered to the customer. It makes the bottom of the bun moist, and all those crispy fries are soggy. That is an unacceptable representation of your product and an unacceptable experience for the guest.

Chains kick independents’ butts in consistency, even when the consistency is mediocre quality. Do Restaurant 101 right to set yourself apart from the competition. If you don’t have Restaurant 101 in place, make it a priority to work on today.

David Scott Peters is an author, restaurant coach and speaker who teaches restaurant operators how to take control of their businesses and finally realize their full potential. His first book, Restaurant Prosperity Formula: What Successful Restaurateurs Do, teaches the systems and traits to develop to run a profitable restaurant. Thousands of restaurants have worked with Peters to transform their businesses. Get his three principles to restaurant success at

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