Q: Over the last two years we have had so many changes required of our business. Whether they were mandated by government, voted in by the public or forced by the economy, I’m having a hard time keeping up financially. Is there a way out? If so, what is the route to improve our results?

A: Running a business is a constantly shifting landscape. At one moment business is great and on track, the next moment change is required to move forward successfully. The difference between falling behind and ruling the world is whether you choose to let off the gas or press it to the floor during hard times.

Great companies are led by great leadership. During the Great Depression there were two companies that manufactured corn flakes, Post and Kellogg’s. Post chose to follow the status quo and rein in expenses and Kellogg’s chose to hit the accelerator and expand its brand and offerings. Kellogg’s now has more than double the annual sales of its next largest competitor. Today, as the cereal category continues to experience declining market share for breakfast, Kellogg’s has taken the direction of pivoting to encouraging Americans to “reimagine their breakfast” and “think outside the cereal box. Although the cereal industry isn’t the restaurant business, for both it takes determination and strategic acceleration to face changing times.

Acknowledge reality.
If your business is sagging or not keeping up with all the changes hitting the restaurant industry, be realistic. Perform a true assessment of your business. If you don’t have time, hire a consultant.

Focus first on the guest experience. Ensure the basics are solid: Is service beyond expectation? Is product memorable and tweet worthy? Is the restaurant sparkling clean and in good repair? Then move to points of differentiation: What was once popular and different is now most likely mainstream and been copied over and over. Is your business integrated into the lives of your guest? Does the hospitality being offered make the guest feel like they own the brand? Is every guest special? Are they coming back more or less frequently? Does the menu reflect the brand? Does it have “cravability,” quality, proper pricing ranges, visual and portion-size appeal, and enough choice? Is the atmosphere energizing in lighting, music, and ambience? Is the presence of management helpful, engaging, and positively impactful? Never forget, when it comes to the guest, every small thing matters. From there move on to the employee experience and evaluate all the touch points with them, then on to the facility details.

Find the pivot.
Change is hard, lack of change is deadly. After acknowledging reality on what needs to change in your business, find the pivot point where the maximum impact can be felt by the guest and the employees. Change doesn’t always have to happen all at once, but you need to refresh your brand every five years and remodeled every 10 years. Use the discipline of clearly recording the goals, the action steps, who is responsible, when goals will be complete and what type of resources are necessary. Then cascade the change messages throughout the organization to the lowest level and train behaviors to a level of understanding, reiterating the importance of the pivot.

Hit the accelerator.
Once you’ve implemented changes, stay the course and champion where the brand is currently positioned and where it is going. Do more of what you do best and build difficult-to-achieve goals and marketing plans around your next evolution as a business. Focus on leading the business forward and supercharging the organization with leadership and higher expectations. Drive hard and dominate.

With every economic change comes the ability to reset. The strongest teams with the most focus and determination will set themselves apart and win market share, growing and becoming more profitable than ever.

For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at [email protected]. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.