The big-picture reality of running a successful operation is more than enough to obscure the little things that are equally important. It’s often the fine brush strokes, after all, that distinguish a work of art from what’s hanging in run-of-the-mill motels. The same principle holds true for restaurant success.

If every inch of the place is truly clean and sanitized, why are there dead flies in the windowsills and petrified gum under the tabletops?

If the Chinese Chicken Salad is supposed to come with tangerine wedges, why did it arrive garnished with cucumbers instead?

If an operation boasts its quality of customer service, why is the bus person delivering glasses of water by the rim just after clearing another table of dirty dishes?

Examples of details going unchecked abound. If you’re like most operators or managers, you can find a shortcoming or two in your own restaurant. And that’s exactly what you should do – break out the white gloves and closely inspect every single nook and cranny under your supervision. Take these steps to address what you discover:

Write it down. Take note of everything that needs to be done, no matter how large or small. Perhaps you found spotty silverware, streaks on the windows, lackluster plate presentations, garnishes that need sprucing up, timing problems and, yes, even dust on top of the front-door trim.

Don’t worry if the list runs on and on. Think of each item as an opportunity to improve your operation. As the old saying goes: “If you can get 1% better every day, where will you be in 100 days?”

Form a plan. Once you’ve finished the list, arrange the tasks in the order you want them completed. Determine deadlines for each item and spread them out evenly over several days, weeks, or months, depending on the magnitude of what needs to be done. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Identify the resources you’ll need to meet those deadlines.

Get your team involved. Don’t lecture employees or send the impression that you’re not pleased with the work they’ve been doing. Be positive and upbeat. Emphasize the importance of managing the details, using concrete examples and anecdotes from your own restaurant. Emphasize to your team that “good enough” never is. Give the people who need to be involved specific tasks. Follow up and, for ongoing tasks, set interim checkpoints that will help you monitor progress.

Reward jobs well done. As tasks are completed, compliment the appropriate employees in private and in public. What gets rewarded gets completed. Consider establishing an incentive that also reinforces productive behaviors.

Bravo! One little step at a time, you’ve made a giant stride toward restaurant success! The closer you are, the further ahead you’ll be of the competition.

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