The 3 Step Recovery Method: For When Your Restaurant Couldn’t Get Any Worse

QUESTION From: Anonymous in LA

“Okay so an update on our facebook ‘come in and you’re hired’ post. It was a hugeeeeeee bust. We hired and started training over 10 new people shadowing them every step of the way but each would come in, work one shift and then not show up again. So now we have shit ton of checks to pay out and nothing to show for it lol. Not to mention all but 2 of our original staff quit and the two [that are] left requested to cut their hours to only 15-20 a week.

So now my husband and I have to pull the weight of the whole restaurant and we have a 2 year old we have no idea what to do with and this is spiraling down the shitter quick. I'm almost ready to walk.”

HH ANSWER:

Sounds like you are stuck in a shitty situation but don’t quit yet. Looking through some of your previous questions submitted and see that you’ve asked about: funding, the appropriate time to open a second location, how to recover from losing your cool with customers, how to start a gift card program, developing a new type of inventory procedure, 86ing split checks, how and when to replace yourself, etc...

There’s a reason why so many of us rely on standard operating procedures - they’re the result of countless years spent, not to mention millions of other people’s dollars lost, so that you don’t have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. I may be way off but - it seems like you may be very new to all of this. If that’s the case, I would recommend you consider doing one (or more) of the following 3 things:

1. While I always stress the importance of not opening until you’re ready (due to the fact that there’s no “pause” button in restaurants and once you get rolling... small problems become bigger ones) there IS an “Emergency Stop” lever and I hate recommending pulling it but - it sounds like you might be headed for a hill with no breaks so...if you feel that now might be one of those times to do “the least bad thing” -put a sign on the door that says you’re “closed for renovations”. Tell people you’re updating your kitchen or upgrading your electrical...and take the time to shore up your foundation by creating a playbook, hiring & training new staff and getting a little more organized. Talk to your Landlord if you have one and beg for a 1month abatement or rent reduction. You should be able to negotiate this with them by demonstrating how their leniency will undoubtedly result in a more stable Tenancy:  https://www.hospitalityhelpline.com/labor/2019/3/22/creating-a-handbook

2. Hire a new or more experienced GM now. If you don’t have the money to attract one, offer a profit share partnership out of the gate. (just be sure to have someone with significantly more experience than you, vetting the candidates). RARELY does anyone want to work for an owner/leader who has less experience than they do...would you? Typically, as hourly employees realize that’s the case- they’ll get frustrated and walk. IMHO, That’s likely one of the biggest reasons you have a revolving door there: https://www.hospitalityhelpline.com/finance/2018/6/17/opening-a-new-restaurant-with-a-new-gm (As any seasoned operator will attest: The hiring and interviewing process is extremely important and your new hiring strategy is what we, in the industry, refer to as “panic hire”...so read this as well: https://www.hospitalityhelpline.com/labor/2018/3/3/limiting-turnover. )

3. Put EVERY employee through, at the very least, a 5 day formal training program before they even speak to a guest. If you don’t set your staff up to succeed, you’re just waiting to see how long they can handle being frustrated:https://www.hospitalityhelpline.com/labor/2018/4/25/restaurant-training-101

I can imagine how overwhelmed you must be right now but take comfort in the fact that you’re nowhere near being alone in all of this. You have quite a few of us here and an industry full of compassionate operators who are usually willing to take a moment and offer various perspectives, opinions, advice or just an opportunity for you to vent.

Just take it one day at a time with the unwavering commitment to be (even the tiniest bit) better tomorrow than you were today.

Keep me in the loop and don’t hesitate to reach out off-line.

Raising a glass to your resilience right now: To the relentless pursuit of being better (say it with me).

Josh