Why is it so hard for business to get the simplest things right?


Having a busy schedule, last night I decided that after football training I would treat my young men (11 and 8) to one of their favourite local restaurants.  And it’s not a multinational fast food joint… hard to believe right.

Having arrived at our destination, I realised that it was busier than normal… It had slipped my mind that it was Valentine’s day and most restaurants would be full of young couples in various phases of amorousness. We managed to get a table without a booking, but there was something amiss.

It took about 3 seconds to realise that the restaurant was understaffed and service was going to be painfully slow… let’s see you explain this to a couple of ravished and impatient young men after a soccer training session.

It took a long time to get any attention from the stretched staff. Eventually we ordered and after a long delay had our meals. I can say that the food… when it arrived, was great as always. The issue was with staffing levels.

If you run a small local restaurant business you must be aware of this. Events like Valentine’s day, Mothers day and Fathers day just to name a few, are always times of increased traffic. It’s important to plan for the additional load and add staff accordingly.

This is not Rocket Science. It is a simple formula, yet so many get it wrong. A little forethought and a little planning can go a long way towards managing workloads. In this instance a simple calendar with events marked on it would have been adequate to inform the owner a few days in advance to schedule additional staff.

Are you getting the simple things right?


8 thoughts on “Why is it so hard for business to get the simplest things right?

  1. Don,
    As someone who was involved in one of those ‘multinational fast food joints’ for a very long time (maybe too long!) I can attest that similar things did happen there too!
    It really does come down to the basics of planning, forecasting and exectuion with a business that has varying sales trends, especially if event driven. It is easy to plan a business when you get the same number of clients day in day out, but for some reason, if there is a change in this model the wheels fall off, as you experienced last night!
    Staffing is a major issue that requires foreward planning, even to the extent of over rostering by having someone ‘on call’ as well as additional team members, but the biggest disaster, which you fortunately didn’t experiemnce, is when the raw product isn’t ramped up in orders, and the place runs out of food!
    Global brands have amazing systems and processes to plan for such events, but at the end of the day as I’m sure we have all experienced, things still go wrong, and it is usually down to non compliance or lack of use in such processes. In the local level it is often a case that the small business owner either doesnt have the process, doesn’t understand the process, or is just too busy to remember to plan for such events (working in not on their business).
    I guess it comes down to the saying that ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Planning is a big business basic, especially when we are dealing with our stomachs and those of our kids when ‘desperately’ hungry!
    I’m pleased to hear the food was still great, so perhaps they haven’t lost you as a customer?

    Tony Ozanne

    1. Thank you Tony,
      I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, and yes I do think it was a case of being too close to the day to day operations working “in” the business rather than “on” the business. Stock levels aree another issue in themselves, but require the same planning principles.
      And no they haven’t lost me as a customer, as the food is and always has been great. Next time I’ll just make sure that I don’t go with ravenous kids when there is an event.

  2. It is an absolute must to get it right. Too many businesses overlook the value to their bottom line when they provide the right amount of (and right type of) customer service.

    1. Thank you Kieran. You are so right. I did also notice that many people were turned away at the door. If more staff had been on hand, tables could have been serviced and turned around faster enabling a second sitting and thus doubling the revenue for some of the tables. That would have had an impact on the bottom line.

  3. After working at a catering company, a small takeaway in the old glebe park eatery (yes, i am that old) and finally joining the ICT industry, I have always looked at all aspects of my career from the customer’s perspective.

    Planning is important, but attitude is important too. I know of restaurants where you don’t wait, that are busy, but someone always is there to help you – no matter how packed they are. The staff are courteous, the food is excellent and I always go back. Public holidays to these places are just another day. The reason that they run in this fashion is that the staff know that a customer may refer others to the restaurant. They know that good press is great, bad press leads to reduced hours. They put in 100% every day and night and they are rewarded by a job. not a bonus, not a commission, just their wages.

    One restaurant has won several awards. One hasn’t, but both are equally high on my list of recommended eating.

    It feels like you are eating exotic food at home. this is the experience I want my kids to have (I have 3), and these restaurants never disappoint.

  4. I guess the answer to the question, apart from the obvious lack of forethought and planning, is that businesses are scared. Scared to lead and inspire their staff, so that they want to work on big occasions (eg Valentine’s night). Scared to lay on extra staff (at extra cost) in case it isn’t busy and well, just scared to show that they value their customers! Luckily, people still want to eat out and (in this country anyway) are still prepared to put up with poor service. Not something I could, nor would want to get away with in my business!

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