Separating the good from the great becomes more difficult when your competition is seeking to do the same.  In a field where mediocrity reins strong it is quite easy to stand out as better – but is this where you want to be?  Average or better than average, good enough, acceptable, not bad, and fine are not terms that inspire loyalty, enthusiasm, or lines waiting to get in.  If you are in it, then be in it to win.  The first characteristic of those who want to be great and those who are great is that they want to be there, and they will do what it takes to arrive at that outcome.

When you line up the great ones (in this case restaurants or even the people who work there) there’s a trait that is common among all – they sweat the little stuff, the details that may be easy to pass off as not that important, but when you add them up, they define how you will be perceived.  This is what separates the good from the great. So, ask the question right now, in this moment, and do so with the understanding that your answer will define your level of success as a cook, chef, manager, server, or restaurateur:  Do you want to be great or are you satisfied with good?  Simple question requiring a simple answer: GREAT or GOOD.

Think about the implications of your answer and then take a deep breath and exhale slowly knowing that you have defined your future, established the reputation of the restaurant, determined who will pay to experience what you offer, and determine where you fit in the marketplace.  GOOD or GREAT – yes, it’s that simple.

If the answer is good then your job is simple – maintain, do just what is necessary, push aside the pressure of the details, and hope for the best.  There are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of GOOD restaurants out there – welcome to the pack.  There are, however, a small, elite percentage of restaurants, cooks, chefs, servers, and managers who will never be satisfied with good – they are on a lifelong pursuit of excellence – they want and NEED to be GREAT!  Is this you?  Is this where you want to sit or where you want your restaurant to be?  If it is, then I applaud you and implore you to SWEAT THE DETAILS. 

So here is a starting point – make a list of every single detail associated with your restaurant experience, your employee experience, your personal and professional goals and then begin the process of assessing how well you are doing with each.  No detail is too small – it all counts – it is the path to being GREAT.  It might begin like this:

[]       Is your website fresh, attractive, exciting, and informative

[]       Is the website easy to navigate

[]       Can guests make reservations online

[]       If there are pictures of the restaurant and your food, are they professionally done and do they reflect the experience you are trying to create

[]       If guests call for a reservation, are they treated in a welcoming manner

[]       Is the process of making a reservation user-friendly and do you offer a confirmation number

[]       Is the parking lot clean and well-lit

[]       Is the exterior signage in perfect shape, properly lit, detailed properly and easily noticed from the road

[]       Is the landscaping attended to, are the shrubs, trees, flowers, etc. healthy and well maintained

[]       Are the windows spotless

[]       Is the exterior lighting functioning properly

[]       Are the eaves and soffits free of spider webs

[]       Is the exterior of the building, the grounds, the parking lot free of litter

[]       Is there transition lighting in the entranceway as guest move from outside to inside

[]       Are the initial smells when a guest enters – enticing

[]       Is it apparent where the guest should go upon entering

[]       Are guests greeted with a smile as soon as they arrive

[]       If a reservation was made, is it managed properly and executed seamlessly

[]       Is your host friendly, professionally attired, and at ease with guests

[]       What is the first impression of the restaurant: lighting, wall and ceiling materials, floors, music, temperature

[]       What is the tabletop like – are tables attractive, appropriate flatware, china, and glassware – is everything spotless

[]       Are the chairs comfortable

[]       Does the host pull chairs out for guests to make seating easier

[]       Are menus presented and is the document explained for easy navigation

[]       Are the menus spotless

[]       Are the menus easy to read under the restaurant lighting

[]       Is the table server introduced

[]       Is water poured within the first minute or two of seating

[]       Is there ice in the glass

Now, this is just the beginning of the list, we haven’t even reached any part of

the product experience, but you begin to see what it takes.  Every detail must be

established, assessed, and managed – every day.  Every employee must “buy in”

to the importance of the details – it is not the manager’s or the chef’s job, it is

everyone’s job and everyone’s passion if greatness is to be achieved.  Are you in?

If you want to start the journey today from good to great, then begin with your

checklist and see where you sit right now.  Don’t shy away from the details –

own them.  Find out where you sit and then delegate every detail to someone,

measure their performance regarding those details and celebrate how well

they do as a team.  Don’t accept being part of the GOOD marketplace, stand out

 as a benchmark for others to respect and wonder about.  As Chef Charlie

Trotter once said:

“I have always looked at it this way: If you strive like crazy for perfection – an all-out assault on total perfection – at the very least you will hit a high level of excellence, and then you might be able to sleep at night.”


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