When the Words “Good Enough”, “Fine” and “OK” Are Bad

By David Scott Peters


Every quarter I travel to an Elite Member’s restaurant for our quarterly meeting. (As a group we rotate our meeting location to be able to tour a member’s restaurant(s).)

These Mastermind Meetings are incredible and do so much for everyone who attends. There are not many opportunities for restaurant owners to be in a room with 20 other positive minded restaurant owners who are willing to share their challenges, triumphs and opportunities with each other. I often feel blessed that they allow me to be in their group.

While I always come to these quarterly meetings with something I want to share, teach and enlighten members with, the majority of the meeting is members going around the table sharing a challenge or two they have been working on and want the group’s input. Time and time again, this exercise is worth its weight in gold.

During a recent meeting while we were going around the table I noticed that there was a theme emerging. Members were describing challenges of a young manager who was doing “fine,” sales volumes that were “OK,” references to managers and employees who were doing “good enough,” and then of course the fresh images of my walk-through the day before.

This got my juices flowing, and then I started in on one of my famous passionate David Scott Peters’ monologues delivered with all the excitement I could muster (sometimes you’d think I was delivering a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet). Let me do my best to summarize the two main points I was making:

  • As restaurant owners we need to “raise the bar.” When you walk through your restaurants, you need to have a customer’s eye. Everything we do needs to keep the customer in mind. How clean we keep our restaurant, the service we deliver, the product we deliver and ultimately remembering that we don’t just sell food and/or drink… we sell an experience.

When it comes to our management team, we need to set the bar high enough that they have to reach to ultimately achieve your customers’ expectations, your expectations of excellence and you and your investors’ financial expectations.

Your job is at every turn to take the time to communicate, correct and enlighten your management team of your high expectations so that they can succeed.

My mother, whom I consider one the greatest restaurant managers I have ever known and who is extremely detail oriented, worked for someone even more detail oriented. Nancy was the vice-president of food and beverage at the Show Boat Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., years ago. Nancy could make my experienced and seen-it-all-mother look like a rookie.

When Nancy saw that the buffet line had literally just ran out of spoons, she would ride my mother about it, explaining that spoons shouldn’t be allowed to run out. She would ride my mother until it was in everyone’s heads that as soon as that basket of spoons was half full, they were to fill it up, “no questions asked.” When that was fixed, Nancy would then find another point of customer contact that needed to be perfected and the process would begin again.

It may seem small, but Nancy, and ultimately my mother, did not accept anything other than excellence, and I suggest the same thing to my members and to you.

  • There is no such thing as “good enough.” The ideal of good enough in the restaurant business is exactly why independent restaurants are taking such a beating. This phrase alone breeds mediocrity.

If you find yourself saying that your staff and management team are doing their jobs in a way that requires the use of the word “fine,” I would say that you are failing to execute the very basics as a restaurant operator. I’ll put money on the fact that you are leaving profits and sales on the table and probably losing money.

Look at it this way… who wants to spend thousands of marketing dollars to shoot from the rooftops to drive customers in by the bus load with this message: “Our service is OK. Our food is fine. Our cleanliness and ambiance is adequate. Come dine with us where your experience is forgettable.”

If you haven’t set the bar high enough, isn’t that what you are ultimately doing?

Taking action

The key to raising the bar is to take action. Taking action starts by clearly defining what excellence means to you and your operations. It means you have to put those expectations into action by communicating them on a daily basis and implementing systems to ensure that those expectations are met with or without you there.

Start the process

My goal in life is to help the independent restaurant operator not just survive, but to thrive, in the sea of chain restaurants out there. In order to do that, my job is to get you thinking of success in new terms, to motivate you to take action and ultimately to get you to raise that bar.

Do us both a favor, treat the words “Good Enough”, “Fine” and “OK” as if they were words you wouldn’t want your kids to use, even after they have heard them on the playground. They are unacceptable, BAD WORDS!

David Scott Peters TheRestaurantExpert (1)David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.therestaurantexpert.com/rdspos.

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