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  • Writer's picturePerfect Blogger


In restaurant operations, the familiar adage, "the only constant in life is change," is embraced and even celebrated, with many operators enjoying that each day is unique, fueled by conquering unknown and often new challenges each day. This attitude is likely what helped so many restaurants pivot during an unplanned market reset in 2020. After a full year of businesses literally having to adapt to survive, we're betting 2021 feels a bit more stable, but now is not the time to let innovation take a back seat. Instead, now is the time to re-establish your path for growth, finding ways to fully utilize the new additions forced by the pandemic: more ordering platforms, contactless pick-up options, packaging optimized for off-premise eating, and streamlined menus and back-of-house operations...just to name a few.

At Perfect, each year we like to define our strategic plan and create a roadmap for what we want to achieve. While the end goal or even top priorities may not change significantly every 12 months, annually is a natural cycle to evaluate business, with quarterly and even monthly reviews of progress to make more minor adjustments to stay on course. We've boiled our process into 5 easy-to-follow steps recommended for every restaurant, both to be completed at the corporate/franchisor level as well as for individual operators and even area/store managers.

Step 1 in creating a restaurant roadmap for growth:

Document where you are today so you can determine where you want to be tomorrow.

At the beginning of any year, it's natural to take a step back and reflect on accomplishments. The frenzied schedule of innovation last year likely blurred your team's ability to acknowledge everything that was achieved. Or maybe it was the pure exhaustion from completing a myriad of unplanned tasks on top of regular required work. Either way, this is an important first step in creating a strategic roadmap for growth, plus, it's always important to celebrate wins. Even as imperfect as rushed executions can be, take a few moments to congratulate your team on what went right.

Step 2 in creating a restaurant roadmap for growth:

Evaluate where the industry is going, including consumers, competitors, and strategic partners.

This is always the most intensive step in strategic planning, but the good news is it's possible to lean on others to help. In addition to primary research your marketing or consumer insights team may supply for this purpose, and reviewing all key performance indicators and business metrics you track as a company, most vendor partners involved in restaurants have deep knowledge about industry trends, either through proprietary tracking or subscriptions to third-party research.

One of our favorite best practices to participate in is when restaurant brands host a vendor partner showcase. At Perfect, we love to share how our Perfect Kitchen and Perfect Pickup data helps operators identify ways to streamline back-of-house operations, increase workflow efficiencies, and prioritize areas for optimization. By analyzing data across the entire restaurant chain, we can help brands identify trends and know where to focus their efforts.

It goes without saying, but it's so important we definitely want to say it, we would never suggest vendor partners release any proprietary information about competitors to clients. We always adhere to strict data privacy and confidentiality guidelines at Perfect.

For the vendor partner showcase, ask each partner to create a 15-20 min presentation on the most interesting trends they are tracking for the showcase. Then, spend the second 15-20 min on their strategic roadmap, identifying synergies between potential growth opportunities for your brand and where the partner is focused. After 1-2 days of learning, your team will have a much broader understanding of your target customer and some potential ideas of how to win them over.

Step 3 in creating a restaurant roadmap for growth:

Honestly assess what you're good at and where improvement is needed.

Now that you have a lay of the broader restaurant land, it's time to look in detail at your business. Complete a good ol' fashioned business school SWOT analysis to make sure you're aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A SWOT analysis looks at both internal and external factors to identify the biggest opportunities for improvement, which is a key input in creating a roadmap for growth. Your SWOT analysis should include:

  • STRENGTHS: What internal abilities or differentiators do you have that fuel growth? Examples: Fast speed of service, large loyalty program database, effective online ordering platform with automatic retargeting, accessible store locations, award-winning taste

  • WEAKNESSES: What internal challenges or failures do you have that inhibit growth? Examples: Employee turnover, outdated training, difficult parking around stores, expensive store build outs, complex menu

  • OPPORTUNITIES: What external factors create an environment where growth is possible? Examples: Closed competitor locations, increased desire for off-premise dining, increasing grocery store prices

  • THREATS: What external factors make growth challenging? Examples: Competitive intrusion, changing customer preference, vendor stability, 3rd-party delivery data black hole

Use the knowledge gathered in Step 2 to guide the SWOT analysis and don't forget to rely on data to avoid personal bias, broadening beyond basic sales data into tools like customer satisfaction surveys, inventory and food cost reports, and food prep to order delivery workflow process evaluations. Strategies built on precise, accurate measurements of performance will produce faster, stronger results.

When your team has completed their list, have everyone vote on the top 2 or 3 items in each category to prioritize what goes onto your roadmap. Priorities should be things you can't imagine living without or the biggest areas of interest/concern that you either want to highlight or combat.

Step 4 in creating a restaurant roadmap for growth:

Determine where you want to be tomorrow. Define your growth objective and plot the path to get there.

Using the prioritized items from Step 3, decide on the objective your brand can achieve based on what's currently available to you and where you're going to focus your efforts for expansion and innovation. Be sure your roadmap includes:

  • A specific objective for growth, like +5% comp sales, +12% traffic volume increase, or $28,000 average weekly sales per store

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will measure progress towards then stated objective

  • Critical projects that need to be completed to achieve objective (determined from the list of priorities established in Step 3)

  • Other projects that need to be completed for business to continue (software updates, compliance requirements, etc.)

  • Expected timeline for completing the projects

  • Responsible departments and (if applicable) executive sponsor

  • Impacted groups, which may be the most important area of the entire roadmap. Two key impacted groups that are often forgotten in restaurant growth is the store, which includes store support staff, managers, and employees, and the customer. Remember that learning new things can be difficult for people, and be sure to build in enough time for training and new innovation acceptance rather than layering too many changes onto these critical groups at one time.

Step 5 in creating a restaurant roadmap for growth:

Share it with the entire organization and with your vendor partners.

This is, by far, the most important step of the entire process. Once you've outlined your plan for growth, don't keep it a secret. Make sure everyone that has the ability to make your plan a success is aware of the broader impact and aware of how they influence the brand's success. Keep them informed of progress, achievements, and required adjustments to stay on track.

As a technology partner that provides integrated solutions that impact both the back-of-house and front-of-house workflow, we love the opportunity to understand how our clients define success so we can support their growth proactively with product enhancements or new solutions in our own roadmap. After all, journeys are so much easier when we're all headed in the same direction.

Road trip, anyone?

5 Key Steps to Create a RESTAURANT Roadmap for Growth

  1. Document where you are today so you can determine where you want to be tomorrow.

  2. Evaluate where the industry is going with as much knowledge as you can get.

  3. Honestly assess what you're good at and where improvement is needed.

  4. Determine where you want to be tomorrow. Define your growth objective and plot the path to get there.

  5. Share it with the entire organization and with your vendor partners.


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