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Transcript: Restaurant Checklist to Manage Managers

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DSP: Hey there restaurant pros, it's David Scott Peters and welcome to episode four of The Restaurant Prosperity Formula­. I've been coaching restaurant owners since 2003 and the Restaurant Prosperity Formula™ is based on what the most successful restaurant owners I've worked with do on a daily basis to achieve their success. The basic premise of the formula centers around achieving prosperity, freedom from your restaurant and the financial freedom you deserve. To achieve prosperity, you have to follow a very specific formula made up of leadership, systems, training, accountability and taking action. Today's topic centers around the principle foundation of a strong management team.

Being known as the restaurant systems expert and after working with literally thousands of restaurant owners and managers around the world to implement systems in their restaurant to achieve prosperity I know a thing or two about a strong management team. The truth is to have a strong management team you must start with setting your standards the way you want things done, even when and especially when you're not in the building. To illustrate the principle, I want to tell you a story about a consult I was on back in 2010.

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Are you looking to get the most out of your business and realize the only way you can do that is to have a strong management team in place? And the challenge is you walk into your business every single day and see things out of place. Things are not to your standard whether service, food quality, plate presentation, cleanliness, you name it. You get frustrated, you get pissed off. And we find ourselves going back to that old adage if you want something done right, you got to do it yourself. To a point where some of us don't even have managers, like why should I spend the money on these managers if they're not doing things my way?

Well, truth of the matter is, that is a challenge for us all. And there is a cure. And it starts with number one, running a great restaurant starts with restaurant 101. Hot food, hot, cold food, cold, clean, safe work environment for the guests and employees, wow customer service, incredible product, incredible hospitality. That's what we were put on this earth to do. You gotta have a passion for that, right. That's got to be what you're here to do. Next, before we get to the systems part, the things that I love to teach, from counting out our bar drawer every single time to three hundred dollars the same way, to dollars per labor hour worked. Doesn't matter. This next step must be in place. It's the foundation to all of your systems. It's the foundation to having a strong management team. It's checklists and cash controls. Checklists and cash controls. Because these are the beginnings of creating a culture where the details matter. That things are getting done your way, which means you've got to have this stuff out of your head. Now, I know what you're thinking, David, checklists don't work. Well, I'ma tell you why checklists don't work. But I want to share with you a story about checklists.

So, I've been coaching independent restaurant owners since 2003. Managers and owners. And I've been consulting over those years as well. Now, I preference my preference is to coach you, to teach you the system, the process, the way. To make sure you put it in place, that you create and change your company culture, that you know what happens in your restaurant operation, because sometimes when a consultant comes in, you pay big money, nobody buys in, and as soon as they leave, all that is gone. So, my preference is coaching, but I understand that some restaurant owners go, I need speed. I want to pay for speed. David, get your ass into my restaurant. Well. I've done that for many, many years.

Not as much as people would like me to because I will try and talk you out of consulting 99.99% of the time, because I believe that you can get it done on your own. It's just a matter of whether you want to buy speed. Well, I can tell you, back in 2010, I was on the ground at my old company on a consult. Restaurant was called Nero's, Nero's Grill in Nashville, Tennessee. Owners John and Judy Griswold, to this day are still friends of mine, love them to death. I may not talk to them very often, may not see them very often, but when I'm in town, we go to dinner and it's like having a high school or college friend when you meet back up. It's right back to that warm feeling because you truly, truly love them to death.

Now, in the beginning, they brought us out for consulting, my past company, and at the time I had other coaches and consultants working for me, with me. And on the ground a good friend of mine, David Militello and I, a restaurant owner, a member of mine in the past, multi-units, top of his game on hospitality and making sure things got done. Just a top-notch operator out of Michigan. Well, the two of us were on the ground doing a consult. Now, I will tell you when we came into this restaurant, it was immaculate. The kitchen was like, I don't know, you could have done surgery in this kitchen. It was that effin clean. Every single day, spotless. That stainless steel shined. Everything was in its place. No dishes were chipped. Nothing was dirty. It was beautiful. And then all the way out into the restaurant everything was beautiful. Now, the restaurant level was I call it bistro. Not fine dining, not truly casual, bistro. So, imagine beautiful hardwood tables with linen napkins. Right? Get the idea. Now food was wonderful. Crab cakes, to steaks, to incredible sandwiches. Just a wonderful, wonderful restaurant. So, when we talk about hospitality, John and Judy delivered that.

I can remember working with them to do their core values. And as we went, one of those core values of the five that we labeled was great hospitality, hospitality. And they defined it as that your guests needs were anticipated and met for them, that there was 100% guest satisfaction. Like that is big. Now they walk the walk. If you were sitting at the table, there were incredible steps of service and one of those things was as simple as when you went to the bathroom, left the table, get on your cell phone, whatever it may be, a server or a busser or a manager passed by your table, saw your napkin was dumped on the table or on the chair. What do they do? They refolded the napkin, put it in your place, tucked your chair back in and made it welcoming. That you came back to those little details. Unbelievable. Food was spectacular. They weren't making the money they deserved. And they were also kind of prisoners for their business. That if they wanted something done right, they were always in the building. And so, they brought us in to have financial freedom, freedom from their business. Right. To take it to the next level. But we weren't going to help them necessarily with hospitality. They were dead on. Unbelievable. Get the picture. Great restaurant. Needed to make more money, needed to have freedom.

Well, they brought us in. So, David and I, we split and conquered, divide and conquer. I was working on the labor allotment system. I was working on a budget. I was working on org chart. I was off in a corner doing something. David was starting do a walkthrough through the building and grabbed Judy, one of the owners, to walk through with him. Well, here's how it went. Judy has really high standards, did I mention? Really high standards. Cleanliness was important. Details were important. That's why they had great hospitality. That attention to detail is incredible when it comes to a guest experience, ensuring they have the same experience every single time they enter your restaurant and dine with you. Well, they start off and she's also very passionate about what needs to be done. David and she are walking through the building and I can hear from a distance Judy's getting a little upset. And the story goes, David said, hey, what was supposed to go on over here? Well, the servers are supposed to this, and they didn't do that. They didn't do that. And she's getting a little bit irate. The standards weren't being met. They went through the restaurant went to another service station, got a little more upset. Went behind the bar, got a little more upset. Went in the kitchen, got a little more upset. Went out on the patio and just about lost it because the patio wasn't set up. And it was bright, beautiful, sunny outside. So, at this point in time, David is trying to keep her calm and says, well, let's go check the manager checklist and see if the manager did their job.

Well, they got to the checklist and the manager did their job. The manager checked off that they checked the patio. Well, I'm telling you, she was fit to be tied. Like these idiots. I can't believe. Dot, dot, dot, dot. You know the feeling, right, when people aren't meeting your expectations? When you want it done a specific way and you keep going. One thing after another, finding they're not getting done and you get upset and we revert back to if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. Hell, why do I need managers in the first place? Well, you need managers, it's the only way you'll have financial freedom. It's the only way you have freedom from your restaurant when people can execute things you want done your way.

But again, to go backwards. She's upset. She's upset because the patio wasn't setup and it was beautiful and sunny outside. The checklist showed that the manager did check the patio. So, the first reaction is manager, what the hell's going on out there? Right. Fit to be tied. David's trying to keep her calm. She's pretty upset now because why? We just went through the whole restaurant. She and David went through and found all these things wrong. So, she's pretty upset at this point in time. The manager says, hey, it was cloudy this morning. I checked. It was cloudy. And our policy is when it's cloudy, you don't setup to the patio. It wasn't worth it because it could rain.

Well, the fact of the matter is, it was sunny. See, the checklist wasn't detailed enough to say, hey, go to and find out what it is and if it's only a 20% chance of rain set it up. If it's going to be cloudy in the morning, you must check back at two o'clock, at one o'clock, at noon. Don't care what it is. And if it's sunny at that point in time, you must setup the patio. You've got to be specific and clear, because if you're not things aren't going to get done.

Hey, wait a second. You get what I'm saying, right? Let me give you an example in your restaurant. Have you ever walked in your restaurant at dusk and the lights are too bright?  And what is your first reaction? Who's the idiot manager working right now? Can you not see it looks like a frickin cafeteria in here? There is no ambiance. There's no environment for us to have an incredible experience. It's so bright in here. Who's the idiot working?

Well, if that sounds familiar, it should because we've all done it.

We say, oh, I saw this guy, David Scott Peters, speak, give a speech about restaurant accountability, holding managers accountable. He said checklists have to be detailed and clear. We'll talk about that in a second.

So, you think you're brilliant and you go to the rheostat, you draw three lines and you say this is two hours before sunset. This is one hour before sunset. This is at sunset. Come on, you idiot managers, execute. Well, you put that in place and the managers follow it. But you walk in your restaurant at dusk one day and you go, it's bright as hell in here. Who's the idiot working? Who's not following the checklist? And you go check the checklist it shows that it was checked and done. And you go to the rheostat and it's setup actually correctly. See, your checklists have to be so detailed and clear that it needed to say, like the patio example, when you come in morning manager check, find out what time sunset is, because there's something called the earth and the sun and they rotate. Right. They rotate and sunset changes every single day. And your checklist needs to say, hey, check, find out what time sunset is. This is two hours before sunset. This is one hour before sunset. This is sunset. And if it's cloudy, follow these rules.

Wait a second, David, are you telling me I have to be so detailed and clear on everything that I want done? Like, I've got to tell my managers how to wipe their ass.

Yes. Not because they're stupid, because you want it done a specific way at a certain time and certainly at some quality level. Right. To how well. Because it comes down to this, what the job is, how to do it, how well it should be done, more importantly, by when. That's what we want done. We want to impose our will without being here. That's how the chain managers operate without owners in them. There are managers in every single location know exactly what their job is, how to do it, how well it should be done, more importantly, by when. And the foundation to all those systems are checklists. We need them.

We need them in our restaurant because here's the deal. If I set up my checklist so detailed and clear, so detailed and clear that, no, there is no guesswork. My managers will execute a shift the way I want it done. As if I were there and especially if I'm not there. I know I can rest assured that my restaurant is being run my way, to my standards.

Now, wait a second. Think about this. I get it. You say, David, I've tried this checklist thing before. Over and over again. Number one, I can't get my employees to use the checklists, and two, they don't work. They never do it to my standard. Why should I even bother? So, I just let 'em go.

Well, there's a problem here, and that is checklists are the foundation to all your systems. If you think you can get a manager to take inventory Sunday night accurately, on time, to your step-by-step process, but you can't get them to follow a checklist. You got to be kidding me. If they don't follow a checklist, what makes you think they're going to they're going to take inventory accurately. That they're going to make sure recipe cards are followed. That time checklists are in place for HACCP. That they're checking the CO2 regulator and the temperatures on your coolers every single shift to make sure you're not running out of CO2 and your temperatures are safe. What makes you think they're going to follow steps of service and cleanliness and that there's enough rollup bins and so on, that it's not crisis management every single day? You got to be kidding me. It starts with checklists.

You want to have a great management team, strong management team, people who know what their job is. You've got to start with checklists. Well, let's put it this way. Judy taught me a phrase and literally Judy taught, because of hospitality or experience, she said, David, our goal is to have a culture of close to open. That we close every shift 100% ready to open the next shift. The problem was they weren't executing it. The managers weren't doing things to her standard, even though they were doing things.

And I said, hey, your standards aren't good. Well, what do I mean?

Well, let's take, for instance, you're a full-service restaurant, we've got this senior server. And so, the senior server doesn't get paid any more. They just check that everybody's side work is done. Right. So, the first cut is cut. They do their side work. The senior server checks that everything was done and then initials their server report that side work was done. So, when the employee goes to see the manager with their cash out, they check the manager checks that the initials are there. Says, is all your side work done? They say, yes. You say, great, have a good night. Over and over and over again it happens till the end of the night. The senior server walks in the office manager goes, is everybody's side work done? They say, you betcha. Great. You have a good night.

Now, here's the deal, what happens?

You put your money in the safe, you get the bar drawer, you go lock it up in the liquor closet, and then you start your closing routine. Walk in the kitchen, lock up the freezer, the cooler. Right. Make sure the microwave is clean. Oh, it's dirty. Look down and the grill wasn't cleaned. Ugh. Oh, they didn't even turn it off. Turn it off. You go past the dish pit. Oh my gosh there's two bus tubs they didn't even finish the dishes. Turn off the lights. And start walking through the restaurant and find they didn't take out a garbage pail. They didn't empty the mop sink and they didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't. You get to the back door, you hit the alarm code, go out the back door, lock the door, go home.

The next morning, the morning manager walks in and does the reverse, unlocks the door, hits the alarm code, and starts walking through the restaurant, seeing this wasn't done, that wasn't done, this wasn't done. Till finally, you find three, four of these. You start looking for seven, eight, nine, 10. My good friend Darren Dennington, who's a restaurant coach and has a great secret shopping service called Service With Style. He and I speak all over the country together, and his speeches, he talks about how managers look for six, seven, eight, nine, 10, because once you find three, four of them, you're going out of your way to say, hey, look what these people didn't do. And he's right. We've created a culture of those bastards at night, those idiots in the morning, front of house, back a house. Right. A culture where we're at each other's throat because nobody gets their job done.

Well, to go back to Judy's advice of creating a culture of closed to open. Our goal is what? To make sure that each manager closes their shift 100% ready for the next manager to open their shift. That's what we're trying to do. That's where we start to have confidence at each other and then we have each other's back. That that restaurant is being set up to your standard every single shift. We leave it ready to go. Well, I already told you, we think there are checklists, maybe they're not detailed enough. How do I know? You said, you looked at a line employee and it says they checked the bathrooms. When you walk in the bathroom, it's a mess. Well, your checklist says check the bathroom. Check.

Have you ever been to one of your employees' apartments to see what they think is clean? Their definition of a clean ain't yours. You've got to say, hey, no water spots on the mirror. No standing water on the counter. No water spots on the faucet. All garbage picked up. And in the garbage pail. Oh, if the garbage pail is 50% full, take it out, replace the bag, dispose of the bag. Are you that specific and clearer on what you think clean looks like? Well, you've got to change your checklist to be to that kind of level. Then we got to train people to that.

But here's the deal. If I go back to Judy and David's conversation with Judy about the servers who didn't do their side work. The reaction was, David said, what are you gonna do about it? I'm going to write that server up. Well, both David and I said to her, wrong. You're going to right up the wrong person. I'm going to right up the manager.

Why do I have managers in the first place? To ensure the process is working. It is not the employees’ fault, the senior server's fault or the server themselves that they didn't do their side work. It's the manager's fault. I put them in place to make sure that the systems I put in place, the standards I've set, are being done on a shift by shift basis. That's why I have managers in the first place. I'm gonna write up the manager and oh, by the way, I will only ever write up a manager once. Once. They're either so embarrassed that they're going to tow the rope. Or they're going to quit. Either way, I win. I'm not going to, right? Either they're going to tow the rope and start to do things at my standard or they're going to go away. I'm not going to invest six months to a year into a person that's going to fight me every step of the way and not execute.

So, here's the deal. Hey, managers, if you're willing to let people go home without doing their side work and you see that it was not done? Then you've got to do it. That's the moral of the story. Is we're going to make sure each manager has each other's back. By following these checklists, we ensure the standards are met. If you let them go home without doing the side work, you do their side work. Guess what happens? If you do two, three nights of doing other people's side work because you can't go home yet. What happens when that senior server walks in your office? Hey, is everybody's side work done? They go, you betcha. You say, great, show me. Get up off your ass. You're now from the state of Missouri. Why? The license plate says the Show Me State. Get up off your ass and go, that wasn't done, that wasn't done, that wasn't done, that wasn't done. Guess what the senior server has to do? Everybody's side work that they didn't make sure it was done. Guess what that senior server ain't going to let happen again? Hey, no, no, no. You can't go home till that's done. That's not the standard. No, no, no.

See, by holding the top of the food chain accountable, not the bottom. That's how we change our culture. And our culture ultimately, as Judy Griswold said, is to make it close to open. That every shift is closed 100% ready for the next shift to start. And the only way we can do that is to impose our will, having opening and closing side work checklists for every position. And a Monday is different than a Friday. We need to have not only our daily checklists shift by shift, but our weekly checklists, that extra side work that gets to be done. The monthly checklists. We need the equipment checklists. We need checklists for everything. The steps of service, cleanliness, HACCP, checking in an order. See, everything that you do in your business can be checklisted. Now the key is, I don't care if you use paper and I don't care if you use software, but what I don't want to do is to print off your checklist and laminate it. Because I was a bartender. And what do we do? We just grease pencil that puppy straight down. Yeah, I did everything. I don't read it. See, you want to be able to walk in the business and say, wait a second, hey, that's not right. Hand it to a manager and say, make sure this gets on the right checklist. That it's paid attention to on a daily basis and changed. So, I need to change that checklist on a daily basis to a new standard. Hey, the mirror in the bathroom wasn't to my standard. You need to be more specific and make sure they're using Windex. Right. Hey, make sure, I noticed that we're losing some of the brass on our railing. Make sure people are using the brass cleaner. I think I saw somebody using stainless steel cleaner. Right. Are you specific and clear? Train people to what their job is, how to do it, how well it should be done, more importantly, by when. Hold them accountable or answerable. And we'll talk about that in a second.

So, I need these checklists because they allow me to impose my will without being there. By the way, it starts with manager checklists. Remember the patio? Remember the rheostat for our lighting. See, all too often, the way we train our managers, the way I was trained, is back in the 1980s when I was in high school. Right. I'm O-L-D. We had a puppy. And the way we trained a puppy, which I wouldn't do today. This was the 80s. You would roll up a newspaper and if the dog did its business on the carpet you'd stick the dog's nose in the business and take your newspaper and hit him on the nose and say, bad dog. Through negative reinforcement, negative reinforcement, negative reinforcement. We were trying to change behavior.

Well, all too often the way we train our managers is follow me for three days throw them keys and say good luck. And the rest of the time when we find them doing something wrong, we take the rolled-up newspaper and we say, bad dog. Negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement, negative reinforcement. You tell me what manager wants to show up in your restaurant that on a daily basis, they're being told what they're doing wrong every day? Made to feel like an idiot that they don't know what they're doing. Well, it was your fault. You didn't train them, ready? What their job is, how to do it, how well it should be done, more importantly, by when. See, when I do that, when I teach you to check light bulbs on a daily basis, to make sure the back door is clean on a daily basis, the planters are clean, whatever it may be. All the things I was taught with a rolled-up newspaper as a manager. When I put that on a checklist, all those standards, and you check them every single day. Guess what? We can start playing a game as a manager you can look me in the eye and say, owner, come on in and find me doing something wrong. That's how we have a strong management team.

Do you see that checklists are that foundation? To your managers knowing and then ultimately you have to hold them accountable. So, you have to inspect what you expect. The day you don't pay attention to a checklist, whether it's the paper one or you're using an online service and it's on a mobile phone or mobile device. The day you stop checking is the day they go away. You owe it to your business to one, put your standards in place based in checklist form. Two, teach your standards. To enforce your standards because that's the only way things change. If you just put it out there and hope people are adults and they're going to get it done, it ain't going to happen. You have to inspect what you expect.

So how do we do this? Like John and Judy, who truly started making the money they deserved, had a management team in place after we worked with them that allowed them to have freedom from the business and work on other things like catering and so on, building things. You can have that, too. Restaurant prosperity, freedom from your business and the financial freedom you deserve. By having a management team in place. And it starts with the basis of all systems after Restaurant 101 are checklists and cash controls. Then we can go into all the other things. And the only way we get there is by getting everything out of your head and into a checklist. So detailed and clear that when you see something not done to your standard, change your checklist. Teach that checklist. Enforce that checklist. Hold managers accountable. And you are gonna be on your path to having a strong management team. It starts with you, restaurant owner. It starts with you getting all those details out of your head and onto a checklist.

You want to take your restaurant the next level, you want to have financial freedom and freedom from your business. It starts with a great management team and the foundation to that are checklists.

So, get out there, improve your checklists, implement them, hold people accountable and you're on your way to prosperity.

Hey, that was an awesome episode. I want to thank you for taking the time to take action on building a better, more prosperous restaurant. Before you go, I want to give you these three thoughts. One, by combining leadership and taking action with systems and training being checked by accountability, you are on your way to creating prosperity for you and your restaurant. Two, I have something I need from you. Please leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you happen to listen to a podcasts. By leaving us review other restaurant pros seeking out this information are able to find it. I read the reviews and hearing how this information has benefited you does wonders for me. And three, if you find any of the discussions helpful share them. The more restaurant pros who have access to them, the better we become as an industry. For more restaurant resources or to get in contact with me connect with me at Be passionate about what you're doing. Be persistent. But more importantly, become better and help everyone around you become better and your restaurant is going to kick some ass.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Restaurant Prosperity Formula. If you want to learn more restaurant solutions like these and how to get your managers to do the work. Sign up for my free for part video learning series where I go into all this in more depth. The link is in the description below. Also, be sure to subscribe to this channel to get my weekly tips and check out these two videos to learn more restaurant solutions.