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Solutions and Strategies:

Updated: Mar 29

During my work, consulting within the restaurant industry, I have been exposed to restaurants at all stages of development – from restaurants that are just getting off the ground, hoping to build clientele and a name for themselves, to restaurants that have become established in a community but are no longer growing either financially or in reputation. I’m a strong believer that every field of industry has core principles - elements that make a business work and flourish within the industry that it establishes itself in.

In the restaurant industry I have had tremendous success utilizing 4 key elements. These elements are simultaneously obvious yet subtle – requiring a broad understanding yet a finesse that allows these restaurants to stand out. They are pillars upon which a restaurant will grow and have aided me in both starting and turning around restaurants for the better.

They are: Food, Service, Ambiance, and Marketing. These all synergize with one another and with even one pillar weak or missing, the whole house will eventually collapse.

And as I got older and began to reflect on the different industries I have worked in, this rule of 4 – the idea that there are 4 key elements to success in an industry – continually showed itself. Today I see that this potent rule was always there, it just took time to truly understand the value of it. 

4 is a very powerful number everywhere. Think about all the key elements in nature that are designated in 4’s:

●       4 Seasons

●       4 Directional Points (South, North, East and West)

●       4 Elements – Earth, Wind, Water and Air

●       4 Sides on a square

●       4 Winds

●       4 Phases of the moon

The Pythagoreans, who heavily influenced some of our greatest minds such as Plato and Socrates, believed the number four (the Tetrad), was a perfect number. They even taught that the Tetrad symbolized God.

In Pythagorean philosophy there are four parts to the soul: mind – opinion – science – sense.

The four-leaf clover is believed to bring luck to the finder, with each of the four leaves actually symbolizing something special: hope – faith – love – luck

In the Bible, on the 4th day God completed the creation of the Universe.

The examples are endless.

But how does this relate to a successful business?

Let me give you my most recent example.

One specific client had varying levels of strength regarding the four elements but they didn’t understand that the key to success, profit and growth was mastery of them. This is often what I see in many other restaurants I have worked with that have already been running for a few years.

The food was servable but not innovative. It was by all standards average.

The service rating fluctuated with staff and they had no clear guidelines for what the wait-staff needed to do to ensure excellence.

The ambiance was one of their stronger elements, being housed in a beautiful and inviting venue, but was not being managed by anybody. This includes things like music, lighting and general décor. You can have the most spectacular car in the world but if you don’t wash it, wax it and buff it, nobody will be able to see it for the gem that it truly is.



And finally, there was a haphazard marketing team thrown together who took pictures and sent out email blasts, but they did not truly understand the ecosystem – i.e. understanding the role of marketing within the domain of the restaurant industry and doing a conscientious and organized effort to maximize their potential.


We had to take one step at a time and restructure one element at a time. First was food. This includes not only the food served but the people behind the food, the kitchen itself. Unfortunately, the Executive Chef at that time was in over his head. He didn’t really know how to run (how to efficiently or effectively work with) his staff, or how to control percentages. Purchasing was being done without any controls, boundaries or parameters. There was no system.

For those who may not be in the restaurant industry, here is a brief explanation. For a restaurant to be profitable, their cost of goods cannot be over 25% of net sales (Gross Sales minus taxes and tips) - same goes for payroll which should never exceed 35%. These need to be controlled, as every expense is a factor of revenue, and no company can spend more than they make and expect to survive. This may seem obvious yet you would be surprised how frequently this is not accounted for. Within a few weeks the chef realized that he wasn’t going to be able to perform under the new standards and he left the restaurant. At that point I had to draw on my pool of effective chefs that we have had the pleasure of knowing or working with in the past. With a strong head chef in place we explained to the team what the plan for Food was. The plan was: gradual change but perfect every time. Every dish has to come out consistently excellent every time. This is something a kitchen should take pride in, but it takes a strong leader for a cooking team to see it this way. We trained the kitchen personnel properly and assembled a team that enjoys working together and is proud of their OUTPUT. Second was Service. Once again, we took a look at the steps of service procedures they had at their establishment and realized that there were no rules or measures in place. Training became the task at hand for this department as well. There is a type of service you expect when you tell your friends that you went to an ‘amazing restaurant’ – and this is the objective that we have in mind when we work with a restaurant. Creating a team that has both the synergy to work together and the individual dedication to mastery is the ultimate goal. Step by step we have to create that team.

For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to go into the intricacies of all 4 elements (though feel free to contact us and speak with us if you are interested).

Ambiance is the third step. And the fourth and final step is Marketing - because you cannot market a service or product until you have the other elements firmly established in place.

Taking over or consulting a running business is always more challenging than opening a brand new place. You have to adapt to the existing conditions and work within certain parameters while still serving the existing clientele. But once you have accomplished the four elements in a restaurant, old or new, it is a thing of beauty to behold; to see the kitchen, the waitstaff, managers, bartenders all working like a well-oiled machine. That is a dream-come-true for every restaurateur.

Now you must think, ok, but that was just a restaurant, how does this apply to any other business? Well, even when I departed from the restaurant industry, this rule of 4 has shown up time and time again throughout my entrepreneurial career.

During a period in my life when I felt I needed a brief rest from the frantic and frenetic pace that comes with owning and working in restaurants, I became a theater producer. Here I also found 4 elements that were integral to a successful theater production. Similar to the previous 4 elements, they are obvious yet subtle. I believe identifying these 4 was the key to my continued success as a producer. They are the Script, the Actors, the Theater Space and Marketing. And like in a restaurant you can’t just have one without having the others.

I have a lot of friends who are firefighters, and I attended training many years ago. I was surprised to find out that the first thing they teach you about fire is that it has 4 key elements to its continued thriving: Heat, Fuel, Oxygen and a chemical combustion (spark). To put a fire out all you have to do is kill one element. Think about that, one element and your fire is gone.

I invite you to find out the 4 elements that make companies within your industry successful. And make sure your team – the most important asset any company can have – understands those elements. You need to make sure they know that they are likely responsible for more than one of these elements and the importance they have on making sure that the fire does not go out. All it takes is one department not being up to par and that company is going down. Maybe not in one week, maybe not in a year, but I can guarantee you that it will not be around for many years.

And of course, the glue that keeps it all together is nothing less than your HARD WORK. But with these, all-in place, I can promise you that you will find continued growth in any company you choose to develop.

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