Every single thing that goes on inside and outside of your restaurant matters. Yes, even outside. When customers walk up to your front door, I promise you they have already made a couple of observations and judgments about your place.
Is there a pile of something left by some dog out in front of the place? Are there a bunch of leaves that probably should be raked away? Is there snow that needs to be shoveled?
Are the windows of your restaurant dirty? Smudged with someone’s hand prints? You see, before they come in they have already formed some kind of opinion about you and your place of business.
And now the inside
What do the tables look like? Are the water glasses clean? I don’t just mean clean, they should be sparkling in the light. How about those salt and pepper shakers? Are they clean, or has some sauce splashed on them from the previous patrons? Are they full?
I remember working at a place one day when the corporate suits stopped by to check out the restaurant. I watched as they stared at the salt and pepper shakers for ten minutes trying to decide where the best place was for them on the table.
I thought that was weird, but now I understand it all.
We are putting on a show
Every night in your restaurant is like the performance of an elaborate musical. Making sure that the costumes are all in good shape, or in our case the uniforms–are they clean, pressed, free of strange odors?
Are all of the props in place? Remember, we call that mise en place. Does the busser have all of the tablecloths stocked and ready? Water glasses? Silverware? Do the waiters have enough napkins folded for the evening? Have you looked at what business you can expect for the day, so you are sure to have enough–but not too much–product prepped? (Having too much food prepped leads to much higher food costs. That extra prepped food will quickly disappear, or spoil.)
Make sure to walk in to your place every day with a fresh set of eyes. It becomes too easy to forget to look around and notice the dust balls in the corner on the floor, or the cobwebs on the ceiling and walls, or the bread crumbs on that banquette.
I have slid into many a banquette/bench seat only to wind up with a handful of crumbs. I prefer to think of them as breadcrumbs, but god only knows what I just put my hand on. Gross. Not exactly setting the customer up for a good time.
Don’t assume it is taken care of
Even though you have trained and retrained your employees, you cannot assume that everything is the way you want it. You have to inspect what you expect.
So, don’t hide out in the office until after that front door is unlocked. Get out on the floor before you open and take a look at things. You can never expect that the employee getting paid minimum wage has taken care of everything. You can’t even expect that of your highly paid manager.
Only you can look at the place like the owner
Get out there and check things out. Is it clean outside? Inside? Is everything the way you want it? Then and only then are you ready to open those doors and put on your show.