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Visualizing the Perfect Restaurant Shift

Visualizing the Perfect Restaurant Shift

What does “The Perfect Shift” mean to you?

Many restaurant managers, when asked, would simply say that The Perfect Shift would be one in which everything “went right”.  Pretty unspecific, wouldn’t you say?  Now let me ask you, as a restaurant manager, if you’re unsure of what The Perfect Shift is to you, how can you ever hope to expect shift excellence? 

Elite athletes have long embraced visualization techniques as a vital strategy to enhance their performance before a game or event.  Tiger Woods, for example, makes the swing and sees the ball fall into the cup over and over again in his mind before he ever even approaches the golf tee. 

This same strategy remains greatly untapped in the restaurant industry, but it can make an immediate and dramatic impact on your and your restaurant’s operation.

In order to run anything remotely close to The Perfect Shift, you must be able to first visualize the outcome you want.  Shift Visualization is simply the act of mentally rehearsing your desired shift results before the shift actually occurs. 

Close your eyes and relax for a few minutes.  Imagine you are sitting in front of your TV watching a video of you and your team’s superior performance through an upcoming shift.  A powerful, uplifting soundtrack plays in the background . . . and you’re swept away.

Suddenly, all eyes are upon you and you see yourself moving confidently and boldly through the shift, smiling and waving to guests.  See your entire team showing up on time with big smiles wearing clean, crisp uniforms.  See yourself conducting an inspiring, energetic pre-shift team meeting.  See tons of beautiful, aromatic, glorious food prepared to perfection with great pride and skill, delivered to enchanted guests.  See your service team transform into public relations specialists, delivering big smiles and creating an atmosphere of genuine awe and delight for each and every guest.  See the excitement and feel the enthusiasm of your team blazing a trail of glory through a heavy-volume, high-energy shift . . . right through the high-fives, hearty handshakes and heartfelt appreciation you bestow upon them as they prepare to go home.  The crowd goes wild, bursting into explosive, thunderous applause.  You’ve led your team to victory!

WOW!  The Perfect Shift!  Isn’t that an incredible feeling? 

The goal of Shift Visualization is simple.  Identify what The Perfect Shift is to you.  Imagine yourself in “the zone” and turning in a superior performance during the biggest, most important shift of your restaurant career.  Rewind your mental video and play it again.  Edit your performance to perfection.  Fine-tune even the smallest of details.  As you play your Perfect Shift video over and over in your head, you’ll begin to feel your confidence grow, recognize your talents, edit your weaknesses and develop your skills. 

You consistently move closer to what you are focused on.  Shift Visualization is a tool that can help you develop a more powerful Positive Mental Attitude and it’s the key that can help unlock the door of your performance. 

Of course, even after mastering the art of Shift Visualization, each and every shift will not always be The Perfect Shift.  There will always be situations and issues that we cannot completely control.  However, with practice, you will have created a mindset geared towards producing optimal results during any shift at your restaurant.

Now, if you were to take the time and make a list of everything that would be involved in making The Perfect Shift a reality, what would your list include? 

Copyright © Troy Brackett,  All Rights Reserved.

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Develop and Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude

Develop and Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude

How many negative restaurant managers have you had the misfortune of working with?  You know the type . . . the ones who walk around with this huge, dark cloud hanging over them.  You can almost sense the storm clouds gathering before they even arrive at work.

They almost never enter a shift without whining or complaining.  Throughout the shift they somehow manage to humiliate, degrade and alienate anyone that crosses their path.  By the end of the shift everyone who is working alongside them is emotionally and mentally exhausted.

Oh, I’m sorry . . . was I talking about you? 

Stop and think for a moment.  Do you ever hear any of the following in your head or spilling from your lips? 

  • “The last manager ran the business so far into the ground that it will never recover.”
  • “We’re in a bad location.”
  • “I can’t get good help.”
  • “This is the worst bunch of employees I’ve ever had to work with.”
  • “There is no opportunity for advancement.”
  • “I work hard everyday and no one appreciates it.”
  • “My boss doesn’t understand.”
  • “I’m not paid to do that.”
  • “No one ever told me.”
  • “Nobody motivated me.”

And the list goes on and on . . .

Negative restaurant managers generally use such statements in order to deflect attention away from their own inadequacies.  They increasingly rely on excuses in an effort to justify their own lack of performance.  Without realizing it, these managers have brought about their own negative circumstances.

Every minute of every day you move closer to what you are focused on.  If all you’re focused on is problems, that’s all you’ll ever see.  If all you ever think about are the bad things that may come your way, you create a mindset that supports and breeds negative results.  Garbage in.  Garbage out. 

Over time, the negative manager becomes more and more focused on finding reasons for failure as opposed to reasons for success.  Morale, commitment, quality and service levels are the first to feel the negative impact.  Eventually, shifts deteriorate and the entire restaurant begins to spiral out of control.

In order to run an effective restaurant shift you must first accept one simple law of leadership:  before you can manage others, you have to have the ability to manage yourself.

Perhaps the most important secret of running an effective shift is the ability to develop and maintain a Positive Mental Attitude, or P.M.A. for short.

No one wants to work with or for a “stinking-thinking” manager with a loser mentality.

People are naturally drawn to those who have a positive outlook and clear sense of direction. 

Your attitude defines you as a leader.  Your thinking affects your decisions and your decisions affect your actions. 

Change the way you think and you’ll change the direction of your shifts, your operation and your life. 

Copyright © Troy Brackett,  All Rights Reserved.

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Successful Restaurant Managers Build Positive, Excited Staffs

Successful Restaurant Managers Build Positive, Excited Staffs

How many of your people can you honestly say are excited about their job and their contributions? In today’s society, there is a prevalent attitude that restaurant work is a dry, unrewarding experience. Much of this attitude was developed over many years, and was fostered in the restaurant industry itself by those who relied heavily on management by intimidation… those who subscribed to a misguided philosophy that their people were less important than their cooking equipment.

But times have changed, and people today have far too many choices available to them. If they find themselves in a negative work environment where their contributions are not appreciated, they may think nothing of moving on.

For a while, the industry was slow to recognize this change, and even when it did, the response generally took the form of “You just can’t find good help these days.” Unfortunately, there are still too many operators who allow themselves to fall into this trap. Operators such as this will fall by the wayside in time, while stronger, leadership focused operators will prosper.

One quality leaders must possess is the ability to excite and inspire their staff. The leader must totally believe in, and be committed to, his or her operation and the people who are vital to its success. Following are some tips that can help create a positive, exciting environment.

The Leader Must be Passionate

If the leader ever hopes to develop excitement in his or her people, it is first necessary for the leader to be excited. One can never hope to inspire if one is not inspired. The leader must be enthusiastic, and be able to communicate that enthusiasm to the staff. If you can’t feel it, and express it, how can you expect the same from your staff?

Convince Your Staff That Their Efforts Are Important

There is a great need in every person’s life, and that is the need to feel that their efforts make a significant contribution. Those who feel that they are not making a positive impact soon develop apathy. “Why should I do better?” they reason, “No one cares anyway.” It is vital that the leader show them the importance of their work. What mindset have you helped develop in your employees? Does one feel that she is “just a waitress”, or does she feel that she is a public relations expert? Instill within them an ownership mentality.

Let Them Know You Want Them To Succeed

If you are looking for a staff that is loyal to your goals, then it is imperative that you are loyal to their goals. What is someone hoping to accomplish by working for you? In what ways can you help them reach the goals that they have set for themselves? Communicate, one on one, with your people and find out what is important to them and how you can help.

Involve Your People In Decision Making

Some operators dismiss their people’s suggestions or feedback. These operators think that they, and only they, are the ones with the answers.

But in his book, Secrets of Effective Leadership, Fred A. Manske, Jr., writes:

“People carry out decisions that they have participated in making much more enthusiastically than they carry out orders from the boss.”

While it is not always possible, or feasible, to implement every suggestion you may receive from your people, there is nothing wrong in listening to their ideas and incorporating them when it makes sense to do so. Many very successful restaurant companies make it policy to solicit suggestions from their people.

Hire Exciting, Energetic People

Sounds simple enough, but if you’re trapped within that “can’t get good help” mindset, it’s very likely that you are simply adding bodies to your staff. Proper planning and interviewing skills can help avoid this.

Many times I’ve seen managers fill their staff with bodies just because they “had to have them.” These same managers would often pass up an enthusiastic, bubbly personality simply because they felt they were properly staffed, but they hadn’t taken the time or effort to evaluate the quality of their current staff. Almost never can you afford to pass up a potential hire that possesses these qualities. Chances are, there is someone on your payroll that has no business being in a customer relations position.

My experience has been that the quality of applicants you receive closely mirrors the quality of people you already have on staff. The quality of the people you have on staff definitely mirrors the quality of your hiring practices.

Other suggestions:

– Create positive competition, whether it be suggestive selling or efficiency contests.
– Teach something new daily and provide new responsibilities.
– Display a sense of humor.
– Provide recognition.
– Develop a “Our team is #1” attitude and communicate it daily.
– Be goal-line oriented and celebrate their achievements when goals are met.

Copyright © Troy Brackett,  All Rights Reserved. 

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Successful Restaurant Managers Practice Effective Shift Management

Successful Restaurant Managers Practice Effective Shift Management

Plan your shifts ahead of time

How many managers do you know that have no idea who is on their schedule before that shift actually arrives? These are the same managers who are never prepared for the possibility of being under or over staffed. Likewise, they never set shift goals, Things To Do, or training focuses. They are, however, the same managers who will complain the next day about the tough shift they had.

Assume shift responsibility

One problem that many managers have is the fact that they seem to take forever to assume responsibility or their shifts. They may arrive on time, but they have to first enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee, maybe a smoke or two, and even catch up on the latest store gossip. Some may even wait for the previous manager to leave before accepting shift responsibility.

Arriving a good 15 to 30 minutes early for a shift is more important than they realize. Instead of going for that first cup of coffee, they should be doing an initial brief walk-through, greeting members of their team and making notes for the shift.

Set the mood for the shift

One of the most under utilized methods of setting the mood for a shift is something as simple as a One Minute Team Meeting. It doesn’t take but a moment to pull your staff together (either as a whole, or if a larger operation, by departments) and communicate your goals with a positive mental attitude.

Great phrases include:

“We’re going to have a good time tonight!”

“We’re going to make our customers happy today, and here’s how… ”

“We’re going to be out one hour after closing tonight, and here’s how we’re going to do it… ”

Of course, you can always set other moods for your shift.

A mood of indifference can be set by not really making an effort to communicate with your staff at all. Likewise, a mood of tension can be set by going all out in your efforts to let everyone know that you’re a hard-nosed jerk of a boss, and that you’re on the warpath.

Part of your job is knowing how to create an atmosphere of excitement. Teams that are excited about what they are doing produce results.

Get organized

While doing your initial walk-through, take notes as to what your priorities will be for the shift. Check your product and inventory. Review your management log and communicate with the other managers. Use your operation’s systems, whether they be work station charts, party books, a.m./p.m. checklists, Things To Do lists or prep sheets… they are all vital.


There is no place for an office manager in restaurant operations. Be visable by practicing Management By Walking Around, however, don’t get in the way of your staff (some managers confuse the two).

Set high standards. Don’t allow mediocrity. Never walk past a mistake. Use timely feedback. Be results oriented.

Provide Ongoing Training

Too many restaurant managers feel that once an employee’s initial training is over, they’re trained. Operators who have this belief usually have an ulcer to go along with it. Realize that training is an ongoing process and is done with each and every encounter with your staff. You should be able to teach something new to each person.


Leadership consists of many things, including everything detailed above. But it also includes encouraging teamwork; giving recognition and appreciation; and setting the example. Don’t be afraid to make a decision. Your response may not always be the proper one to make, but at least you didn’t allow the decision to be made for you through inaction. It is much easier to lead someone than it is to push them.

Copyright © Troy Brackett,  All Rights Reserved. 

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Restaurant Management Accountability

Restaurant Management Accountability

All too often we hear managers say things along the lines of “My store would be successful, if it weren’t for . . . ”

These managers can give you a long list of reasons for their operation’s poor performance, but offer very little in the way of solutions. To them, there is always some other reason “out there” that holds them back.

What they fail to understand, or chose to ignore, is that they are the ones who are responsible for producing results. Even worse, there are some of them who do realize this, but are uniquely skilled in playing “the blame game” in order to draw attention away from the fact that they aren’t effective leaders.

Stop for a moment and honestly consider your current situation.

When your food cost runs out of standard, is it your employees fault or is it your own?

When your sales drop, is it because your prices are too high, or have you been neglecting your service program?

When your employee turnover skyrockets, is it because you can’t find good help or is it because you haven’t been following through with your team building responsibilities?

As manager, do you play the part of the “victim” when P&L time rolls around, or do you stand up and hold yourself accountable?

The restaurant industry is filled with managers who make excuses for their performance, but the successful managers are those who won’t tolerate that behavior in themselves.


Because they have a strong sense of responsibility, not just to their company, but to themselves!

Because they have an overwhelming sense of pride . . . not just in themselves . . . but in the results they produce.

Because they have a have a deep desire to bring about success . . . not just for the company they work for . . . but for themselves.

Accepting personal accountability doesn’t mean that you will always be successful, but it does provide you with the tools necessary for future success. It enables you to evaluate you own performance and actions and say, “Hey, I screwed up but I’ve learned something from it, and I won’t make the same mistakes again.”

To bring it all to the bottom line:

Excuses may sound good, but they never make you a profit!

Copyright © Troy Brackett,  All Rights Reserved.

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Successful Restaurant Managers Create a Sense of Urgency

Successful Restaurant Managers Create a Sense of Urgency

The “Let’s do it and let’s do it now!” attitude is one of the key elements of success, but whether or not that attitude is a driving force in your restaurant is entirely up to you, as manager and leader.

In almost every instance, an operation without a sense of urgency is under the direction of an operator who has lost the will to win. Perhaps a better illustration would be the old saying, “A fish rots from the head down.”

Following are examples of how you can help create a sense of urgency and hustle in your operation. There are no secrets of management here, nor do you need to rush out and enroll in a night-school business course. It all comes down to a little common sense and simple management by example.

Tip #1

Get out of that office!

If you were looking for an office job when you took on the responsibilities of operating a restaurant, you were most definitely misled. If you aren’t spending 95% of your time working the floors, then you are out of synch with what is expected of you. And if you think you’re fooling your employees with that tired line about having too much paperwork to do, think again.

Tip #2

Always, be the first one to work.

It never ceases to amaze me how many operators will demand promptness from their crew, yet he or she will forever be late themselves. To some, it is common practice for their opening crews to be kept waiting on the sidewalk wondering if the boss will ever show up to unlock the doors.

Tip #3

Make sure your employees see YOU hustling.

How often do your people catch you trotting across the foyer to open the door for a customer? How often do they catch you rushing to take, fill, prepare orders – especially during slow volume hours. When your people come to you and relay a customer complaint, do you say, “Okay, I’ll be there in a minute,” or do you spin around and race immediately to the customer? Hundreds of possibilities here.

Tip #4

Make sure your employees know it (whatever “it” is) is important to you.

If you have an outside road sign, is it important for you to keep it regularly updated? How about when the wind knocks down a few letters – is it fixed ASAP or do a couple of days go by? Do you make sure any broken equipment is repaired within 24 hours? How long do your dining room floors go without being swept or mopped? How often do you check your restrooms? If you run out of a product for your menu, do you simply put up an “out” sign until the next delivery, or do you make arrangements to get that product in now?

Copyright © Troy Brackett,  All Rights Reserved. 

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