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Restaurants are like a Football Team

Sports teach valuable lessons

Owning a restaurant is very similar to running a Sports team. Everyone dreamed of owning one while growing up and with that, they feel like they know how to do it because they’ve been thinking about it all their lives.  Restaurants, like sports, are the easiest to criticize from the couch not understanding the countless hours the actual practitioners put into it.

“Come on, Brady! How do you miss that pass? I hit that exact same throw in my flag football league just 22 years ago.” – Ill-informed Sports Fan

“Come on, Waitress Susan! Where is my steak? I’ve cooked up steaks at home and it sure as hell didn’t take 20 minutes.” – Ill-informed Diner

There is so much preparation done before “game-day” or for a dining experience that the average Joe doesn’t take into account.  The knowledge needed to accurately describe a dish or beverage pairing to a guest is just assumed, same as a catch by a wide receiver is assumed to happen.  No one cares that the employee is sprinting full speed and the ball might be a bit inaccurate or the dish had an ingredient change that wasn’t relayed to them.  Have you ever tried to describe a daily special that you just learned about in 5 minutes during pre-shift because the chef is excited about a new ingredient they got?  It is not an easy task nor is catching a football while someone is trying to tackle you.

Similar to how the offensive line aren’t appreciated enough, the back of the house (kitchen) doesn’t get their credit either.  It is not easy to forecast and prepare dishes for a variable number of guests.  Keeping costs down while also having ample food choices is a delicate dance that every restaurant struggles with.  It has become even more difficult as many people now make several reservations on the same night and decide in the moment which restaurant they would prefer.  It is unfortunate that guests have no idea the strain of skipping out on a reservation can cause a restaurant.  On average, about 20% of restaurants reservations go UNFULFILLED.  Not only does it affect holding tables for a non-existent person, the food created to potentially feed that person can end up going to waste.

The key to a strong sports team and restaurant is keeping your best players on the field.  It is never helpful when an anchor of your team gets hired away to a different team.  You need to be like the Patriots, where everyone understands their role and there isn’t constant turnover at the important positions.  Having a great head coach or GM that is committed to the success of your franchise is of the upmost importance.  It is obvious to your staff when someone at the top is frustrated with their position.  When a leader isn’t happy, it has a ripple effect through the whole organization.  You must have an open dialogue with your staff to keep a feeling of the pulse of the restaurant.  When your staff only feels like they are there for a buck, you lose the passion for the game. Yes, everyone wants to be paid a fair wage but if you don’t have your team working towards a higher goal than a buck, your team will eventually fail because after all money is the root of all evil.

A key thing to remember, is that there is going to be another game or dinner service.  You must not let small setbacks affect the passion you and your employees have for the game.  If you are able to remind your staff about the larger goal of being a great team then the focus won’t be about every negative yelp review or poor tip or burnt chicken that occurs.  There needs to be attention to detail and an ingrained sense of accomplishment from being able to put your best foot forward.  Keeping a staff or team motivated is the most difficult job of management.  Having a positive outlook on the restaurant (football) game is something that needs to be incorporated throughout your daily tasks.  It is easy to get cynical in this profession so being able to lead by example is essential.  Remind yourself and your staff that this is a fun business where you get to make people feel better with food and a dining experience.  It is not an easy business and that is what draws everyone to it because humans love challenges.  So keep grinding and know that even Walter Payton got tackled a few times on his way to becoming the GOAT.


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