Manage Change in Your Restaurant


The restaurant business is like show business, which means you need to be ready for anything. From advances in technology to the competition outlook to the ever-changing demands of your customers, change could very well be the only thing we can count on in this business.

What’s a Fad and What’s for Real?

As is true with any company in the service industry, we need to be ready to respond to factors outside our business that impact our sales. We run the risk, though, of over-reacting to a fleeting fad and investing time, money and resources to make changes to our operation that aren’t really necessary. (If you still have parachute pants and pet rocks in your closet, you probably know what we mean.) To tell the difference between a fad and a trend that requires a change in your operation, look for a “yes” to more than a few of these questions:

  • Does this trend have staying power?
  • Does this trend cross over into multiple industries?
  • Is this trend tied into health and wellness?
  • Is this trend based in proven technology?
  • Are your guests asking about this? (If you’re not sure, ask them.)

Gluten-free foods are a good example. What may have seemed like a fad at first, has now become a bona fide movement, even getting a designation by the FDA. Steadfast trends like gluten-free menu items, social media marketing, and technology-based tools almost always require you — and your staff — to adopt a change. Other times, change is necessitated by mandated regulations, corporate policies, or HR rules.

How to Implement Change

Regardless of its root cause, change happens whether you and your staff like it or not. Even the most motivated employees can let an impending change get them down. How can you manage change while keeping morale high?

  • Change with a purpose. Be clear with your staff about why the change is necessary.
  • Chart a course, but don’t fly solo. It’s easier to sit by yourself and create organizational charts and systems designs, but it will only be successful if you get people involved in the solution.
  • Reward innovation. Let all employees know that ideas are welcome and encouraged. Respond to suggestions promptly and award suggestions that pay off.
  • Ask for volunteers. You’ll be surprised who shows up… and what they can do.
  • Treat the solution as a temporary measure. Don’t commit to it until you’ve tried it… and you’re sure it’s the best fit.
  • Go slow. Choose one significant change at a time. After your team’s completely implemented the change, move on to others. Their confidence will make the next change go more smoothly.

But perhaps the best way to initiate change and motivate your team members to do the same is to change yourself first. As Thoreau put it, “Things do not change… we change.”

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