Q: We’ve seen an amazing number restaurants open in the last three years. The constant allure of new restaurants has resulted in flat or declining sales and a less exciting restaurant experience than in years past. We’ve also suffered some staff turnover, and I feel like we’re starting over somewhat. While this is providing a new opportunity, I’m a little confused on where to focus. Can you provide some guidance?

A: Popular shows like “Restaurant Impossible” regularly show how quickly a restaurant can be turned around with the proper focus and attention. The core recipe is simple: Rework product, improve service, fix design and promote locally. This is also the formula used by major companies as they worked through the Great Recession with the benefit of an additional layer of great data measurement.

This formula forces a restaurateur inward instead of outward, on fixing problems inside the four walls before reaching outside the four walls. The highest impact in the sequence is service. Consumers are five more likely to return to a restaurant for the service than the food. The old phrase, “People come for the food and come back for the service” is true.

While service to the guest is paramount, service to the restaurant carries heavier weight. Being a great co-worker and employee sets the business up for success and allows each player to perform at his or her highest level. Technical performance is a result hustle and effort, and whenever these fall off, technical performance suffers. To ensure your team is reset with proper expectations, considered the following:

Recognize and reward hustle. A person who hustles is one who owns the result of his or her work. What sets one person apart from another is the amount of discretionary effort that person is willing to give. The difference is “hustle.”

Any person should be able to perform at the highest level, which includes knowing why-what-how-when to do tasks, intense focus, do-it-right-the-first-time precision and wicked speed. Hustle clears the way for all of these. The sooner a task is completed, the sooner a person one level up can do his or her work and so on. Slowness or stretching work out leads to others not starting their work, slowing down the entire machine. Hustle also generates energy and buzz.

Guests love great energy and reward it with return visits, better reviews and free word-of-mouth advertising.

Recognize and reward effort. “Always do your best” sounds corny, but if each player does his or her best each day, individual performance skyrockets, co-workers perform better, and the guest believes the restaurant is a great place to be.

Take the time to map out potential 1-2-3 scoring and A-B-C performance for each employee. Insist that each person reaches maximum individual potential and performance. Once you’ve scored everyone, meet individually and reset expectations for the next level up and clarify what it means to perform at an “A” level. Discuss effort as the deciding factor between “A” performance and below. As a leader, success is determined by harvesting discretionary effort. By recognizing and rewarding effort, each team member will see his or her impact on every other team member and the restaurant as a whole.

Recognize and reward those who “get it done.” Every business has those individuals who get things done without much direction. In a recent planning meeting, the GM of a restaurant said his team, “Come on, you know there’s Emma and there’s the rest os us,” Heads nodded and people were inspired to be their best each day and to be the next one ho “gets it done.”

Take a lesson from those who have gone through tough times. Use the product-service-design-promotion-information formula and reward those who hustle and make great effort. You’ll see sales and your bottom-line growing again.

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