Small Family Operation, Big Mistakes


There’s a small New-York-City-style deli near our office. They serve high quality meats and have incredible egg salad. What makes them a draw for me is they put their sandwiches on their bagels that are made daily. The combination is really good.

But with that said, they do so many things that just kill me to watch. Let me share a typical visit for lunch. After a few lunches with them, I can hardly stand to go in anymore because I can’t stand to watch them make so many mistakes that are costing them business.

Let me tell you what I see as their mistakes and how they should go about fixing them.

  • Checklists – The restaurant was dirty because they don’t have checklists. We teach that checklists are the foundation of ALL restaurant systems because they set standards and expectations. Without checklists, especially in a small family business, everyone has their own idea of what clean means. If they had checklists in place, there would be only one standard for everyone to follow and nothing would get missed.
  • Point of Sales System – They’re using a cash register – which is a horrible idea! If they actually had other employees it breeds theft. In their situation I highly doubt internal theft is even remotely a concern. But, when they type in the sale price of everything sold, they lose their ability to analyze their sales mix to find ideal food cost or just know what their customers are buying.
  • Customer Service Training – While I love that they are a small family business, they have no sense of customer service. They unfortunately treat you like an inconvenience, politely to your face. If they put a “WOW” customer service program in place, they would kill the competition because they would endear the customers to them and get them to visit and say, “I know the owners!”
  • Selling Tickets – You think that today everyone would understand Restaurant 101 includes staging and selling tickets. If they would learn to fire items and work their stations as a team and call the customer when the complete order was up and ready, they would instill a sense of urgency and improve customer service. I wouldn’t be done with my sandwich by the time my wife gets hers.
  • Recipe Costing Cards – It is 100 percent clear to me that this restaurant does not have recipe costing cards. Why? Nobody can sell a fresh bagel with Boar’s Head meats in generous portion and give you a fountain drink for under $6.50! Heck, the sandwich itself should probably sell for more than that. Add the fact that they are giving up $2 – $2.50 for every sandwich they sell, they are committing financial suicide! Charge for quality. Charge separately for sodas because customers don’t price shop a drink.

So what about you? Do any of those situations sound familiar to you in your restaurant? I bet some do! Let’s run through each question you should be asking yourself.

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Do I have checklists in place for every position and every shift in my restaurant?

Do you have a point of sale system or better yet, is it accurate?

Do you have a real training system in place?

Is your kitchen run professionally by professionals?

Do you have accurate recipe costing cards done for ALL recipes?

Be proactive in your restaurant! Let us help you make sure your restaurant isn’t making these common mistakes.

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at