In this fiercely competitive arena for restaurant market share, where economic challenges loom large, and the stakes have never been higher, it’s critical to remember the timeless wisdom of President Dwight Eisenhower: “What counts is not the size of the dog in the fight—it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
As we navigate turbulent sales and traffic headwinds, this moment is a call to action for restaurant and operational leaders. So, muster your determination and rally your team, for in the battle for market share, it’s not just about the odds—it’s about the will to emerge victorious.
Here are ten strategic maneuvers to ensure you win the dogfight for sales and traffic and gain that coveted restaurant market share:
- Stay above the line. Some people take responsibility for their actions, and others don’t. ‘The line’ is the point that separates these people. Ensure you and your leaders avoid blame, excuses, denial & drama and embrace ownership, accountability, responsibility & opportunities. Read a summary of The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability
- Be Sales Driven and Profit Smart. All too often, restaurant operators focus just on driving top-line sales or bottom-line results. Focusing too much on the bottom line might create higher percentages of overall profit at the expense of the bottom line — this is a real risk when sales and traffic are down. Make sure you and your team are balancing top-line and bottom-line interests. Read my post: How to Run Sales Driven, Profit Smart Restaurants.
- Focus on the “real numbers,” then set challenging yet achievable goals. The only real numbers are last year’s numbers. Budgets have their purpose but are made up and negotiated. Gain clarity and alignment on besting real year-over-year numbers, especially SL-EBITDA. Emphasize the journey to top-line sales and bottom-line profits. Share the how & why or a supported game plan with your team that will help them win. Read my post: How to Drive Results by Setting Restaurant Goal
- Reinforce your core sustainable competitive advantage(s). Your business’s core sustainable competitive advantage(s) is the unique and enduring strengths or attributes that set your business apart from its competitors and allow you to maintain a dominant position in the market over the long term. For example, having a focused menu is a core sustainable advantage of In-n-Out Burger and Raising Cane’s. Imagine if those brands added items every time they experienced an economic downturn. Long-term winners in the marketplace know and protect what makes them unique. Read: Sustainable Competitive Advantages
- Date the methods, Marry the mission — stay relevant to market trends. Ensure you keep your concept (design, experience, brand, food, etc.) relevant to the marketplace without compromising your values or competitive advantage(s). Chick-fil-A has done a nice job of “dating the methods but marrying the mission” well. Chick-fil-A closes every Sunday, an incredible sustainable competitive advantage that few competitors are willing to duplicate. At the same time, the company has let mall food courts, carrots and raisins, and cole slaw go to embrace drive-thrus, superfood salad, and frosted coffee.
- Embrace radical candor. Leaders sometimes reduce their communication when there isn’t good news to share. With less communication, teams fill the gap through gossip, rumor mills and fear-mongering. Candid and regular communication fosters trust and allows your teams to face challenges directly. Transparency and trust pave the way for team stability, quicker strategic adjustments and long-term business growth. Read The Meaning of Radical Candor: What it is and How to Use it.
- Build sales with existing traffic. A traffic slowdown is different than “no traffic.” Focus on opportunities to speed up service, increase throughput, and add on sales. Carefully review your customer experience and operational execution to find opportunities to grow sales with existing traffic. Read about Starbucks’ multi-pronged approach to wait times and complicated drink orders.
- Stay focused on improving Guest & Worker sentiments. This is especially true if your customer and workforce base skews younger. Follow these five steps to make longer-term experience improvements: (1) Review data to find the gaps, (2) challenge and redefine segmentation, (3) challenge and redefine the value proposition/journey, (4) create and execute an action plan, and (5) measure and review. Read PYMNTS Everyone’s a Critic: 49M Consumers Recently Posted Online Restaurant Reviews [Registration Required]
- Go phygital. The divide between online and offline is disappearing as customers shift to a blend of digital and physical worlds toward “phygital experiences.” Restaurants that meet customers’ demands for integrated digital and physical experiences will gain restaurant market share over those that do not. This evolution invites innovation around touch-and-go ordering, personalized programming, digital menu board and drive-thru experiences, digital workflows and more. Read: Bringing the phygital experience to restaurants
- Use external economic forces as a tool for change. Dr. John Kotter describes ‘change’ as a process of altering how things are done. Change is necessary to allow organizations to continue improving, developing, and growing. Kotter’s 8-step method for change starts with ‘creating a sense of urgency’ for change. Slowing traffic can create a natural sense of urgency to change how things are done to drive sales and profits, which likely impacts bonus potential, job security and more. In this framing, a headwind can become a tailwind. Leverage that sense of urgency to drive productive changes to your business. Read: Kotter’s 8 Steps for Leading Change
May your restaurant thrive and flourish as you navigate these challenges with determination and strategic prowess. Remember, it’s not just about surviving the storm; it’s about emerging stronger, wiser, and better positioned through the storm and beyond.
About Consult to Grow®
Consult to Grow® always wants our clients to prioritize sales generation while strategically managing costs to maximize profit. We advise restaurant owners, founders, and operators strategically to level up restaurant businesses. Let’s get started.