15 Super Helpful How-To Articles for the Restaurant CEO

We’ve worked with executive leadership teams of some of the most successful established and emerging foodservice and hospitality companies around the world, supporting with strategic issues related to growth and expansion, performance optimization, brand strategy, marketing, due diligence, and how to enhance and maintain enterprise value.

Through more than 2,000 senior-level engagements, we’ve consolidated some insights related to the most pressing questions our clients come to us with looking for answers, and the biggest challenges that we help them tackle.

Here’s a compilation of some of the most helpful how-tos related to the restaurant industry:

1. How To Reverse Declining Revenues

There’s a persistent, nagging feeling that comes with negative sales and traffic declines. In the restaurant industry, that feeling is amplified. Some might console themselves with the thought that it’s not all bad but, for those ready to face the facts of negative sales — and work to overcome them — there are a few steps to take before heading in the right direction. Here’s what to do when restaurant sales are down.

2. How to Enhance Enterprise Value with Earned Media

Earned media can be a tool to demonstrate that valuation multiples can actually be increased throughout a holding period. Those looking to invest in a company naturally should be assured that there’s an opportunity to grow the business. That opportunity becomes more clear when an investor can say, “People are talking about this — just think of all that you could do with it.

3. How to Reinvigorate a Tired Restaurant Brand

Most established restaurant chains have weathered difficult times, as customers started disappearing and sales slipped. Those that survived the slump did so by realigning their brand so its core personality, promise, and positioning resonated with guests.

4. How to Reduce Food Cost Responsibly

Is your menu properly aligned with existing and emerging consumer dining behaviors and trends that could impact purchase price, frequency, check average, and product preferences? Have you conducted a menu mix, daypart mix, and profit center mix analysis to identify potential opportunities in the last six months? More questions to help optimize food costs here.

5. How to Optimize Labor Productivity

Rising wages are expected to be one of the biggest business stories in 2019 and beyond — particularly in the restaurant industry. Forward-looking operators can start to get ahead of the evolving trend by implementing labor optimization initiatives now (before they become a necessity).

Improve Your Margins

We look at major cost drivers (historically, current-state, and future-state) to determine how those can be made more efficient. We holistically assess and optimize: Labor Productivity | Food Cost | Rent | SG&A

6. How to Improve Margins Through Menu Strategy

Operating margins are being compressed for restaurants and foodservice operators around the world. But the choice between driving revenue and improving margins does not have to be binary — both can be achieved while catching a wider net of performance enhancements. 

7. How to Launch a New Menu Successfully

Every great restaurant turnaround has started with a menu, working from the inside out. Yet, new menu launches are often relegated to junior teams and mired in committee consensus. In actuality, new menus affect every facet of a restaurant company — from food costs to company culture. We outline some of the questions that restaurants launching a new menu should, but often don’t, consider.

8. How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Brand Strategy

Sometimes, we are too close to our own unique skills, capabilities, advantages, and competencies to see how best to organize and harness them in business and brand strategy. It is key to find and leverage differentiated messaging and positioning that translates to a wealth of benefits (consumer appeal, competitive proposition, market share gains, revenue growth, sustainable margins, attracting better talent, and more). Learn more about how to assess your brand strategy.

Sales-Building Strategies

Are you experiencing flat or declining sales and need to jump-start revenue at a system- and unit-level? We can help drive revenue in a way that works both in the short-term (with quick-hits programs) and over the long-term (growing revenue and enterprise value without sacrifices to margins).

9. How to Perform a Marketing Audit

In today’s era of a rapidly increasing pace of change, many chains fail to perform periodic, top-to-bottom audits of their marketing objectives, strategies, and activities. It can be difficult to narrow the focus. Those who perform marketing audits shouldn’t just be able to answer “What are we doing?” but also “What should we stop doing?” and “What will we need to do in the future?

10. How to Evaluate Your Restaurant Brand Relevance

“Relevance” has a deeper, broader meaning in today’s market than the traditional logos or slogans of yesterday. Similarly, a modern restaurant brand audit requires much more than just auditing a company’s marketing efforts. These questions will help you assess whether your branding is working — and if not, how to update it.

11. How to Prepare for Private Equity Investment

Private equity has increasingly found a niche in the restaurant industry, with deals cropping up on every continent. As our firm has been approached by between $3b–$4b in buy-side private equity specifically earmarked for actionable foodservice transactions, we put together an overview of the deal process to get a chained restaurant operation transaction-ready.

Getting Deals Done

Whether you are buy-side or sell-side, the market is full of opportunities, the stakes are high, and quality advisors are worth their weight in gold. This will prove to be an extraordinarily important vintage year for parties on all sides of a deal.
  • Country Market and Industry Landscape
  • Valuation Benchmarks
  • Target Identification (List & Priority)
  • Deal Sourcing
  • Operational Due Diligence for Restaurant Chains, Contract Foodservice, Foodservice Technology, Foodservice Equipment, and Suppliers
  • Commercial Due Diligence
  • Assemble Due Diligence Team
  • Manage Diligence at a Country Level
  • Concierge Service, Deal Management
  • 100-Day Plan/ Value Creation Strategies
  • Post-Acquisition Integration
  • Management Team Assessments
  • Portfolio Rationalization
  • Growth and Expansion
  • Performance Optimization
  • On-Going Support/ Operating Partner
  • Identifying Potential Buyers
  • Maximizing Value at Exit
  • Negotiations

12. How to Garner Buy-In for Technology Investments

The foodservice organizations that have most successfully harnessed technology share a few attributes. They started their transformations while facing significant threats. The technological answers they implemented focused on improving the guest experience, not enacting change for its own sake. And their secret was not to champion technology, but to champion change.

13. How to Get Your Marketing Budget Approved

Not only do the number of channels available for marketing grow every year, as social media platforms pop up overnight and then disappear just as quickly (still miss you, Vine!), but new technologies — like narrowcasting, smartphone apps, and self-ordering kiosks — all demand their own approach. Unfortunately, most restaurant marketing departments haven’t seen a thorough upgrade since 2009: the equivalent of walking around with an iPhone 3G in your pocket. Here’s how to get your marketing budget (and initiatives) approved.

14. How to Prepare for Rapid Expansion

Growing too quickly can sometimes be egged on by the ego-over-EBITDA disposition of an unbridled management team. And not growing fast enough is a recipe for a different kind of disaster. While we often say it’s easier to ride a wild stallion (in this case, a fast-growing restaurant chain) than drag a dead horse (one that’s not growing at all) — the big question that many restaurant chains need to answer is: how fast should we be growing? And, what steps do we need to take to make sure we’re right-sizing our business along with that growth?

15. How to Get Corporate Planning Right

Global foodservice is a $3.1t industry, and it’s expected to grow at a relatively predictable pace with population, inflation, and consumer discretionary spending. But, over the next three to five years, hundreds of billions of dollars within the industry are going to shift to new categories and segments. We offer five tips to restaurant executives for rethinking strategic planning to stay ahead of these changes and the competition.

While all of the above articles are helpful resources, we love helping to create tailor-built strategies for our clients — bringing perspective, context, connecting the dots, and contributing in a meaningful capacity — to build a composite view of what is shaping the industry and the dynamics that matter most to helping imagine the future, enable and align resources, and plan the details required to move from aspirational to achieved. Learn more about how we can help.