How To Develop A Mindset for Success for your Restaurant Business


From my book "More Bums On Seats" - Five Steps To A Highly Successful Restaurant.

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."

I daresay you haven't much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." (Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll)

Every single strategy that I teach is thoroughly tried and tested, it's not academic theory dreamt up in a classroom, this stuff works and it makes money. What will stop it working for you is YOU and YOUR MINDSET. This is why we are discussing your mindset first and why this section is so in depth!

I have a firm belief that what you think and how you think about it becomes your experience of the world.

I also believe that the vast majority of people are so asleep that they have no idea what they are thinking or why. Consequently, they experience a life that they don't want and believe what "happens to them" is nothing to do with them; they are merely victims of circumstance.

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Obviously in most cases, this mental process or auto-pilot is useful and necessary, you don't want to have to re-learn what to do with all the knobs and buttons every time you get in the car or have to do your own research into quantum physics before you decide whether it's a good idea to bang your head on the wall when a member of staff calls in sick.

However, not doing your own thinking about why "things keep going wrong" in your business, life, health, relationship, diet, etc etc is not only lazy, it is a recipe for a certain failure. Running on auto pilot is seductive to the lazy man or woman, it means they don't have to work and best of all they can blame others when the results are different to those they expected.

The problems with "waking up" and making your own decisions is that you suddenly have to do the work, you have to go against the crowd, you have to take responsibility for what you allow into your head - the agendas the media are feeding you. You also have to take responsibility for yourself and your results.

Believe me "being asleep" is much easier but being awake and being in charge of your life is much sweeter and the results are yours. What you create in your wakeful state makes a difference, it wouldn't have happened without you on the planet. As Steve Jobs put it, 'you are putting a dent in the universe'.

So back to that statement, "What you think about and how you think of it"... Are you thinking about what you create in your life? Are you thinking about solution, or evidence to support your reasons for struggle or failure? Are you thinking outside of the box, away from industry norms or are you looking for leadership from people trapped in the same box as you?

Oh how you are thinking... are you awake and questioning the agenda the media is force feeding the nation? Are you questioning the veracity of the hospitality heroes that are paraded in front of you? Are you looking deeply at the strategies successful business owners are using? Or are you running on auto pilot hoping to change so things magically get better or easier?

(*By asleep I mean running on auto pilot, not making conscious decisions about situations occurring in real time but relying on past experiences or data from other sources in order to navigate the world.)

Who thought running a restaurant could become so philosophical? But how can it not be? You are determined to be the author of your own destiny when you opened a business. You also put your hand up to be a leader when you decided to have a team to support you in that business.

So my premise is this, to be a winner in business (and in life) you have to be awake. If you're willing to be awake, you have to be courageous enough to go against the mainstream, to change what you've been doing and take responsibility for the outcomes along the way.

By the way - to me this is what "living life" is about, as opposed to having an existence. So if you are "in", great! Buckle up because you are in for a lot of fun and thrills along the way!

First though here's a couple of quotes to show you we are in the realms of greatness here,

First from Albert Einstein

"The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them."

And from Theodore Roosevelt

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and seat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who know  the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

And just for good measure here's one from me:

"It is impossible to have a successful life or business built on a foundation of excuses."

So let me give you a little story from my own life and then we'll look at yours...

I can remember a day in my life when my whole life changed; it was back in the 1960s, I was about seven (yes I am that old) I was at the primary school at the time. I had had my eyes tested because previously I had failed to correctly copy words from a card to a piece of paper. The teacher had concluded that if I couldn't complete this simple task then I must be a long sighted or something.

Well my eye test came back perfect so her next conclusion was that I was stupid. This is when my world changed. It was subtle at first, I didn't get picked to answer questions in class, she actually called me a liar when I said I had written a poem myself, she felt I must have copied it as it was too good for the stupid kid to make up. I was left alone. I was not encouraged when I struggled with my time tables and most profoundly my report card described me as someone who as limited.

Rather than stupid, I was dyslexic, I still am. The teachers' was of teaching didn't fit for me, I couldn't think fast enough to make sense of what they were teaching me, at least not in the style they were teaching anyway. My spelling was and still is very unique. This issue was the same with every teacher I encountered.

My "stupidity" continued to dog me in every class and in every school. It was compounded by every report card I took home. Until finally at 16 when I left school as early as I possibly could. I ran out of the school gates and straight into the open arms of factory life.

Do I blame the teachers or the school system? Not a bit. They didn't know any better and in reality, they did what they were set up for, they were educating the poor working class after all. (This may sound harsh but it is a fact that schooling was given freely to the poor to educate the peasant workers to be useful in the factories. It just hadn't moved on much where I was schooled.)

Nope I don't blame anyone - that would be "asleep thinking". What I do instead is look at the process and the results. After a few years of being told I was stupid, being marginalised by teacher who thought I was dumb and having parents being told via report cards that I was a poor student, I eventually believed I was dumb.

I wouldn't have used that term, but I believed wholeheartedly that I had limitations and because of that my life was limited. I couldn't grasp what other people could and I knew that meant certain opportunities were excluded for me; no university, no flash jobs, no luxurious lifestyle etc. I knew my destiny was to sit in the "cheap seats" of life.

Though no fault of my own, I was asleep and to paraphrase Einstein 'the worked that I was creating' was very limited and destined to be unfulfilling. My behaviour reflected my thinking! At 14 I dropped all the academic subjects and instead took woodwork, metalwork, art and so on. As a consequence, the outcome I produced was that I was a perfect candidate for manual work in a factory. I was going to be another working class man on the treadmill of manual labor until he retired and probably died in his early sixties.

You see there's an amazingly simple formula in life that works like clockwork, it goes like this:

Think -> Do -> Get

Beliefs -> Actions -> Results -> Outcomes

What you think about leads to what you do and what you do leads to what you get.

This works whether you go through life asleep or awake. When you are asleep you don't get to choose what you think; big business, Governments and the media do that for you. When they tell you the recession is making life tough for restaurants and virtually all restaurants are destined to struggle and close, guess what you believe?

Those beliefs will cause you to take certain actions; to tighten your belt, stop marketing, stop giving little extras to customers, cut back a member of staff on a shift and buy cheaper cuts of meat etc. Those actions will lead to certain results; less marketing means people forget about your restaurant, less little extras means less delighted customers, less staff means poorer service, and cheaper ingredients means lower quality products for your customers to enjoy... the outcomes lower sales, less repeat business, bad reviews, more complaints (not necessarily to you) and less profit.

The Asleep Restaurateur concludes, "The media was right, the recession is killing my business, I must tighten my belt further" and he/she does so until 'the recession' finally kills his/her business.

As An Awake Restaurateur you see that there is a recession in the USA and in Europe and that the Australian public are being brainwashed to act like sheep to change their spending habits. You realise there is nothing you can do about that but wonder what you can do to make sure your business thrives in the changing economy. You research the behaviour of people in the past recessions and realises that when times get tough, customers stopped buying big items like homes, cars, holidays and eating out so much but indulged on "affordable luxuries" like perfume, jewellery, chocolate, and in home entertainment.

You then think your customers might stop buying expensive lunches and dinners but may purchase take away, gourmet to go, special priced lunches, one off indulgence events, celebration nights such as birthdays and anniversaries, gift certificates, retail produce, cooking classes, coffee and cake packages for ladies that lunch, high teas, cheaper corporate packages and so on.

You take action, you decide to ramp up your marketing and promote one or two of these events. You track the response rates, tweak and refine your marketing, offer and products until the result is working successfully.

The outcome is that you are more profitable than ever. Your own customer base is responding well to the new offerings. You are also capturing the customers that your asleep competitors are losing. You are delighting them with "Wow!" service and inviting them to come back again with more cleverly designed "affordable luxury" style marketing.

Above is the same scenario with different outcomes that stem from different "awake" or "asleep" thinking.

You have to be awake though in order to think differently. You also have to be willing to take responsibility from your beliefs, actions, and outcomes too. The asleep restaurateur will always have the excuse of "it was the economy that did it to me."

Once awake, you can use that excuse too, but you will always know in your heart that it was you who wasn't willing to do whatever it took to get the result you wanted.

It sounds quite like The Matrix, doesn't it? Which do you choose: 'the blue pill or the red pill'? Just in case you are wondering if this is for you, here's my quote again.

"It is impossible to have a successful life or business built on a foundation of excuses."

So back to my story... what happened and why I am not a factory worker now?

If you just want to get on with your own journey to restaurant success by all means skip this next part but if you are someone who needs completion please read on.

It has a lot to do with my father, Margaret Thatcher, punk rock and Australia. Yep, a strange mix I know but here goes...

Whilst I was growing up with my father was a union leader (Father of the Chapel as it was called back then.) He was also an angry man who hated being put down and marginalised. As a result of his own circumstance and subsequent beliefs, he had ended up living a limited life, and he knew it. It was a different era where working class men did as they were told to feed their families, so the luxury of self-actualisation was never on his radar.

So he did what he had to do to provide for us, but to live in congruence with his purpose, he became a union leader and fought the system from within. Maybe he thought by changing the nature of his workplace, he would change his own life. I can't say for sure, but I can say he was a fighter.

I sat in awe and sometimes fear as he would rage about injustice whilst warming his backside in front of the coal fire in our cramped living room. He would swear at the politicians and business leaders on the TV. He wrote endlessly to MPs and local politicians. As a union leader he campaigned for better wages and conditions for his colleagues.

I have to tell you some of that fight and anger against injustice rubbed off. I was angry, I attended union rallies, political concerts, gave money to striking miners and I hated Margaret Thatcher.

The "Iron lady" attacked my homeland, the north of England; her mission to smash the union's powerbase. In doing so, she closed a lot of factories, the one I worked at was one of them. She went on to encourage the privatisation of the buses; ironically this was where I had gone after being made redundant from factory life. Once redundancies at the bus company were on the radar, I moved on again. It felt like the Iron Lady was stalking me making my life vulnerable and miserable. I know I wasn't alone, many working class people living in the north of England felt the same way.

I didn't know what to do or where to go. I knew my life was going to be limited but I was very lost around this time. Lost and angry. I was just out of my teens and looking for some direction and leadership.

Strangely it came from the most unexpected direction, punk rock music and its protagonist. It really fitted with the time, much of the UKs youth were being "thrown on the scrap heap". We were pawns in a power play between government and the unions and so when Johnny Rotten yelled "I am an anti-christ, I am anarchist…" millions of young working class Brits were swept up with the passion of rebellion, me included, even though I had no idea what Johnny was yelling about.

The success of singers who couldn't sing and musicians who couldn't play gave me a new paradigm; near-do-wells who were doing well provided with hope. I was angry at the Government, I was angry with my bosses and I was angry with what Britain had to offer me so I decided to bugger off.

In 1984 I arrived in Australia as a backpacker and I fell in love. I arrived in technicolour, lucky country with blue oceans and swaying palm trees. I had arrived there from a black and white movie, angry and depressing full of gloom and pessimism. (To get a sense of the time and place think of movies likes Brassed Off, Billy Elliot, The Full Monty and Kes.)

I fell in love with Australia. I spend six months travelling from coast to coast and north to south. Along the way, I realised that I could reinvent myself with every stop and with every person I encountered.

It sounds kind of 'naughty' but I realised that people would believe it and respond to whatever persona I presented. My "stupid, limited, unsuccessful persona" wasn't set in concrete, I could decide who I wanted to be, how I wanted to behave and most importantly what kind of outcomes I wanted. This was the beginning of my understanding of Think -> Do -> Get.

After six months my visa expired so I Ieft. I set off for England travelling overland through great swathes of South East Asia. I spend travelling in business, trains, boats, trucks, and taxis with everyday people. I got to see how lucky I was to have been born in the wealthy west.

The people I encountered on my journey were often working so hard just to put food in their mouths and to provide shelter for their families. I will never forget in India seeing a woman who looked like she was 70 years old doing roadwork with what appeared to be a garden trowel. She was digging up bricks and relaying them in the middle of a busy road while cars buzzed noisily around her. I realised that, however hard I thought my life was, it was a picnic compared to what millions of people on our planet experience every day.

Once back in England, I decided that regardless of my past, I was going to create the life I wanted and that meant two things; One, I was going to live in Australia and Two, I was going to do something that made a difference to other people. After my experiences in Asia, I wasn't willing to spend my life doing meaningless work. I knew I couldn't solve world poverty or hunger, but I could make a difference to the people I spent my time with.

To cut a long story short, this is when I began doing community and social work and despite my fears and challenges around education, I went back to school, I studied social work at university, and ultimately got a Master's degrees in Education and Social Studies. During this time, I worked everywhere from youth clubs to prisons, addiction units to family homes, and pre-schools to aged care homes. My motivation then, to make a difference, is still my abiding motivation now.

Today I work with individuals and families in business settings, none of them starving but most desperate for help and support, and many just afraid as my social work clients in the past.

Beneath the titles of restaurateur, chef, businessman or woman, people are still people. You have hopes fears and challenges and I see it as my goal to be of service where and when I can. That might seem trite when you are reading it as text on a page, but more than once I have worked with restaurateurs who were days away from losing their business, homes, possibly their marriages and we have managed to turn their business around. That is meaningful, it's not trite

As for you, you're probably not as desperate as that, but if you are, don't worry, there are answers for you in my books and on my website. Most readers will be looking for a few ideas and tips to increase the number of "Bums on Seats". If that's you, help is here for you too. Everything I, and my team, have done to make restaurant successful is covered.

So if you are ready to begin, "take the red pill**" and let's get started...

**From the movie The Matrix, "You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

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