Restaurant operators are a resilient group, and I have a lot of hope for you and faith in your ability to get through this pandemic. However, it will take some adjustments because you can't go back to the way you were doing things. Costs will go up and the margins will get even tighter.

The first three things to work on right now to make sure you never go back are Restaurant 101, checklists and having a system for everything. Continue reading to learn more about how to do each of these.

Restaurant 101 is solid

Restaurant 101 is the very first thing that must happen in your business before putting together the checklists and cash controls, before you get into the myriad of systems I teach to help you get your life back and make the money you deserve. Because ultimately, if you don't do Restaurant 101 right, your restaurant sucks.

Do I have your attention? OK, let’s break it down. Restaurant 101 is simply great hospitality.

• It's hot food hot.

• Cold food cold.

• A clean safe work environment for guests and employees.

• It’s WOW customer service and an incredible product.

Checklists in place

To start, if you're running a great restaurant, putting out great product, and you've got great service, checklists are the key critical system you're going to put in place if you want to make money. 

Why? If you can't get your managers to use a checklist on a daily basis, what makes you think they’re going to take inventory Sunday, on time and accurately. If you can't get them to do the simple stuff, what makes you think it's going to change? The key to checklists is using them to create a culture where the details matter.

You need to make sure you have a checklist for opening and closing side work for every position that is so detailed that anybody could pick it up and do it. It’s not just “clean the bathroom,” but, “make sure the bathroom is clean: the mirrors have no water spots, there's no standing water on the counter, wipe down the counter and throw away the paper towel, if the garbage pail is 50% filled, take it out and replace the liner.” It is step-by-step instructions how you want it done, how well you want it done and by when.

Now is the time to create the checklists. Walk around your building with a yellow pad of paper, write down everything that pisses you off, grab any old checklists, grab this new checklist and put it all together. From that point forward, when you reopen, you will have checklists that set expectations.

Checklists are also essential for cash controls. Make sure every penny makes it in your bank account. Using the daily sales report from your point of sale system, track how the money came in. Then every day you put in your actual deposits, track your over/short and make sure it's within whatever you allow for servers and bartenders. Take the time to put your procedures in place for that.

A system for everything

You must have systems for everything in your restaurant. Systems are a process, a way of doing anything and everything in your business. Period. Whether it's count out a bar drawer the same way, or dollars per labor hour worked and anything and everything in between.

You need to embrace what the chains do well, which are making it through the pandemic easier than we are because they have systems, processes, ways of doing everything they do. They don't have owners in their business. They're able to cut.

What systems? There's a whole list. In fact, there's a book that I wrote, many of you should know now, called Restaurant Prosperity Formula: What Successful Restaurateurs Do. It’s an easy read, available on Amazon, and will set you up with everything you need to have in place to start to create your plan for success. 

You've made it this far with COVID-19 restrictions and money is starting to hit the bank. Do not blow this opportunity. Do not spend that money without having a plan.

Your plan:

• Restaurant 101

• Checklists and cash controls for everything you do

• Get your systems in place

Our industry has just gone through something it’s never gone through. You have opportunity. Yes, your sales may not be as strong because we have all these people out of work and people are uncertain about how to proceed, but there will be less competition, which means it's an opportunity to be great.