Q: Our restaurant has traditionally had pretty steady sales, but lately our sales have begun to flatten even with price increases. The business also seems less energized than in years past, yet the economy is growing around us. Where should I focus to get back to where we can be?

A: Economic growth creates opportunity and brings new restaurants and more competitors. What should be viewed as an opportunity for growth for your business can soon turn into a fight for your future. To become a lasting, flourishing business, you’ve got to keep everyone focused on five key areas:

Clearly articulate and refine your vision, purpose and values. Start with some quiet time as the leader and make sure your vision is clear. Evaluate how the company is progressing and whether it is on track to meet that vision. Shared vision is a substantial driver of employee engagement levels and sales. Next, turn to the purpose of the organization and ask why the world is a better place because your company exists. Then, revisit your values and evaluate how your employees behave inside these defined values. Adopt the behavior a leader must have, cast your vision, define your purpose and live your values. Talk about all of this frequently.

Deepen the guest experience. View your business from the guest’s perspective. Ask your frequent guests what they like and don’t like when they patronize your restaurant. Scrutinize the entire experience from the moment the guest drives up to the moment they drive away. Dine in your restaurant(s) daily as a guest with friends for one to two weeks in different meal periods and see the experience through the eyes of the guest. Record your observations and form your hit list of what needs to happen and share it with the team.

Enrich the employee experience. Sit down with every “A” player in your company. (About 20 percent of the workforce are “A” players.) Ask them for direct feedback with leading questions such as “Would you enthusiastically join our company again?” Force them to look at how the workplace could be improved for the employee experience to be top notch. Highly engaged team members produce three times the profitability of the unengaged employee.

Grow profitability. Study your financial data and look for trends in your profit and loss statement. Begin at the top to see how to effectively drive sales. Work down the P&L and question every line item and ask how it can be improved, then set goals with your team to accomplish those goals.

Advance systems. All high performing companies have excellent systems. Break your business down into buckets of systems and evaluate whether your systems are adequate to grow your organization. Start with financials and IT:  You should receive clean financial statements on a regular basis and use that information to teach, train and develop managers and staff to be great financial managers. IT systems must be solid and supportive if you expect high performance from employees. Guest systems should be focused on feedback, service and relationship management. Sales and marketing systems need to be focused on external and internal communications, product development, quality assurance and sales building. Lastly, inspect planning systems to determine whether the appropriate time and effort is being spent evaluating the business and driving it forward with well-planned goals and execution.

Meet with the leadership team for a day per quarter to discuss these areas. Determine the areas in which the most critical few things must be done. Write down three. These “critical few” should drive 80 percent of team effort. The remainder of the goals, no more than six, should take the remaining 20 percent of team effort. With this approach, you’re guaranteed to create focus in your organization and get better results.

For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.