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Running Your Business:
SMART Systems Infuse Profits and Fun Into Restaurants
By David Scott Peters

You went into the restaurant business to provide enjoyment for your guests, as well as to make money and achieve personal satisfaction. Running or managing a restaurant, however, comes with an array of challenges and crises, many of which can rob your profits and zap the fun out of your day-to-day operations.

The key to keeping crises at bay and gaining control of your restaurant: Implement SMART SystemsSimple, Measurable, Applicable, Repeatable and Trainable. These systems alleviate stress, promote preparedness and accountability among staff, and create a foundation for training employees. SMART Systems are a mindset. And as you know in the restaurant business, attitude is everything.

All systems—from inventory and ordering, to accounting and Point of Sale—have one common ingredient that can make or break their success: Staff. You’ve got to develop good people who can execute systems. Train them to a system rather than train by the seat of your pants. Delegate responsibility of specific systems to the appropriate employees. Then simply double-check the systems are in place and running smoothly. While there are countless ills a SMART System can cure, here are some simple, top-of-mind systems to get your restaurant on par with profitability and fun:


A quick system to ensure your guests have a great experience is based on a popular acronym in this business: GUESTGreet, Understand, Educate, Satisfy and Thank. Everyone in your restaurant should be trained (as well as “live and breathe”) this fundamental philosophy, from the back of house, to the front of house and management. When a guest walks through your door, graciously greet them. Understand why they’re there to meet or exceed their expectations. Educate them on your menu specials. Armed with knowledge of your customer, strive to satisfy their needs. Last and most importantly, make it a priority to thank them and welcome them back. Be sincere. There’s nothing worse than a half-hearted, “Thanks…” as you’re walking out the door.


Often times, the simplest systems are overlooked. Develop a manager’s checklist that chronologically outlines everything that should happen in a day; make sure every manager uses it. Should the unexpected happen, reference this checklist to ensure the simple things were inspected. Did you check the toilet paper, light bulbs and the thermostat? What about the CO2? Don’t be caught off guard.

Stave off employee issues—and make a good first impression—by preparing a new-hire checklist and packet. Many restaurants go about this haphazardly. On their first day, employees are greeted with, “We’re out of employee manuals, and did I tell you to bring your IDs?” Before a new-hire’s first shift, she’s already thinking, “Do I really want to work here?” An organized orientation process will go a long way in instilling trust, open communication and enthusiasm in new employees.

Consistent Training

In our business, 90 percent of employees leave in the first 60 to 90 days because they don’t know what their job is or how to do it. That’s a crime. Develop a training manual for every position, including your managers. It’s imperative that everyone on your staff understand their job, how to do it and your expectation level.

Pre-shift meetings present an opportunity to train your staff on a daily basis. All it takes is 15 minutes prior to a shift. When your staff is dressed and ready, call them together. During the meeting, explain to them what the specials are and provide tasting. Discuss policy or procedure changes, as well as other important items such as employee incentives and contests. Prepare notes. This is your opportunity to reinforce expectations while instilling collaboration.


When I was rookie manager in charge of eight bartenders, I’d post the schedule and get yelled at by people saying, “I told you I couldn’t work that day… What happened to my good shifts?” Establish a master schedule that details each person’s scheduling requirements and requests. Also useful is a scheduling guide so you know, based on volume and business level, how many people to staff. Over the years, I’ve found these two tools can make staffing extremely simple.

Without proper maintenance of equipment, costly repairs can bleed your restaurant to death. A maintenance schedule will ensure contractors are monitoring your refrigeration, heating and air units on a routine basis. Your appliance repair people should also visit regularly to inspect your stoves and other equipment. Spending a couple pennies today will save you thousands of dollars later.

Without ordering and inventory systems, we get bogged down. And if we don’t have these crucial systems in place, we often lose a lot of money without knowing why. Both ordering too much and ordering too little are costly. Not only do ordering and inventorying systems simplify your life, they control your costs—and keep cash in the bank.

Creating a Fun Environment

We need to create an environment that motivates—one where staff members have fun, like working there and are making money. How to create the “Wow!” or pump up your staff?  It starts with a greeting. Just as important as greeting our guests, acknowledge a staff person when he walks in the door. Look him in the eye and genuinely greet him by name. Offer your assistance should he need anything.  

Secondly—again, just like we handle our guests—thank your staff for their efforts. Be genuine. Be present. When someone hands in their money, shake their hand and let them know you’re appreciative. Let them know their success is imperative to the restaurant’s success.

Implementing SMART Systems will control costs, prepare you for the unexpected and make fun happen. Because when you walk in the door with peace of mind thinking, “It’s going to be a terrific day,” your guest is also going to know it.

More Articles by David Scott Peters...

David Scott Peters David Scott Peters is the founder of Smile Button Enterprises, LLC, a hospitality systems consulting firm that trains restaurant owners and managers on the appropriate skill sets and SMART Systems—those that are Simple, Measurable, Applicable, Repeatable and Trainable—to realize their dreams in the competitive restaurant business.

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