Q: We’re a mostly seasonal business with more than 50 percent of our revenue earned in a four-month window. We’re earning less profit each year and I don’t want to have another year of going backward financially. What steps can we take to enjoy higher profitability?

A: When it comes to profitability many charts look like a silhouette of Mt. Rainier, think on the edges and massive in the middle.

If there was ever a time to start putting forth the best effort of the year it’s during the massive “harvest” season. To reap maximum profitability, consider the following:

Set clear standards and communicate them proactively.

To ensure a proper ramp up to busier shifts and to avoid unnecessary confusion and drama, review restaurant standards to ensure they meet expectations and provide an outstanding guest and employee experience. If the team is consistently exceeding standards set them higher to raise the bar. Reiterate both speed and accuracy in everything. It doesn’t matter how fast something is done if it’s not right. Keep employees moving from the moment they arrive to create momentum throughout the shift, and inspect work frequently, always referring to clear standards. The faster everyone moves, the quicker the restaurant can be opened and closed shaving important, costly time out of labor.

Communicate goals and share results for each day.
Retail businesses reach their peak at Christmas. Last holiday season when I was on a trip through a retailer, I asked a cashier if it was going to be a busy day. She quoted the sales goal for the day and the expected number of customers. She went on to tell me how they were performing for the season and whether it was one of the busier season the store has had. It’s important for your team to feel a part of the biggest picture and have important information. While the specific numbers weren’t important to me, the cashier’s sense of readiness and willingness showed a highly engaged employee ready to give her best during the peak season and specifically on one of the busiest days of the year. Highly engaged employees produce highly profitable guests visits and provide a 300 percent premium over a non-engaged worker.

Run contests and reward with fun.
As much as you would expect an employee to surprise and delight the guest during a visit, do the same thing with your crew. Set goals for each division that complement the business. If ticket times are one of the key deliverables for the kitchen or increasing guest check average is a goal for servers, communicate goals, track, post and discuss with each team member. Once goals are achieved on a consistent basis, surprise and reward with short-term incentives such as gift cards to online retailers, tickets to sporting events, concert tickets, or whatever a crew member might love.

Incentivize the team for the season as a whole.
Keep everyone focused on running the restaurant well during challenging times over the long haul. Set cost of goods, hourly labor and operating cost goals and discuss expected results for the season. Study the business and find ways to improve the cost structure over the prior year regardless of inflation. Schedule labor tightly around the edges of meals periods, especially the first and last half hour of each shift, and manage diligently. Don’t take risks. When you know the business is going to be in full swing, staff up. Engineer menus to maximize profit margin, increase speed and check average. At the end of the season, kick some of the profit back to the employees for beating expected results.

When the harvest season is in full swing, it is the time for everyone on the team to perform at a new level. Leadership must always go first with a reinvigorated attitude, a fresh approach and new techniques to improve performance first in themselves, and then with their teams. Keep focused on guest engagement, meeting and exceeding standards and communicating and rewarding results, and you’ll have the highest profitability possible.

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