How To Solve Problems In Your Restaurant

Restaurant owners working in kitchen

I began my consulting career focusing on helping restaurant owners solve day-to-day problems. Below are some techniques I found to be effective in rapidly solving problems.

  • Focus on cause, not blame. The former provides an objective search, the latter provides emotionalism and recriminations. Don’t seek vengeance.
  • Problems usually DO NOT go away by themselves. Face the issue, and deal with it. Procrastination exacerbates problems and builds stress.
  • Ask yourself immediately, “Is this important?” If the answer is “no,” then live with it. Not all problems need to be fixed. (All of my cars have imperfections somewhere that don’t merit my time to eliminate.)
  • Look for comparisons. If a door isn’t closing, look at other doors and determine if you can spot any distinctions. These will often lead you to the cause of the problem.
  • Ask yourself “What’s changed?” Virtually all new problems are caused by some change (else nothing would have gone wrong). Find out if the nature of a relationship has changed, something new has been installed, or someone made an alteration.
  • Use only empirical evidence. Focus on what you can see and prove, not what you suspect or are told. Validate assumptions. (“Yes, she has been late each morning,” or “No, we aren’t having poor responses to the offer.”)
  • Be aware that to solve a problem you must remove its cause. Otherwise, you’re adapting to it, which may be appropriate, as well. Putting additional air in a slow-leaking tire is adaptive, but plugging the leak (or replacing the tire) is corrective.
  • Interim actions can buy you needed time. Covering a hole in the roof with a tarp is an interim adaptive action which saves the furniture until a permanent patch can be installed. (Asking someone to “sleep on it” and talk in the morning when you are both calmer is an interim action to create a better environment for reconciliation.)
  • Make your process transparent. Let others know what you’re doing and why. Unlike decision making, problem solving is basically an objective, logical pursuit and the more people sharing, the more positive suggestions and the less suspicion as to your motives. (“What do you mean by that?” is one of those emotionally pregnant accusations which often follow what was thought to be a rational suggestion but the intent of which was not shared.)
  • Validate to ensure success. Test your thesis on paper (it’s easy to turn buttons on a machine and reverse them, but far more difficult to take back what you’ve said to someone in error or confusion). After you take your corrective or adaptive action, check to ensure that the problem is either removed or accommodated successfully.

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