goal setting

One of the major struggles of restaurant managers is finding time to set concrete, achievable goals. If you’re in the food service industry, you likely find that the grind of the day-to-day tasks can overshadow the long-term growth strategy.

You may feel like you don’t have much control over how your business is running—only how it stays afloat. You go into work hoping customers will walk in the door, the staff does well, and there aren’t too many fires to put out. You don’t have the time to plan out the future of your business.

And even if you had the time, what would you plan for?

Why Set Goals?

Most managers have certain goals imposed upon them by owners or franchisers. Usually this is a financial goal: “make x dollars this quarter” is a standard goal for restaurant managers.

But how do you reach that dollar amount? What if that dollar amount is more than your restaurant has done in past quarters?

How do you get your business to the next level?

Setting smaller, achievable goals can help you reach that uppermost goal of the quarter. It can help you improve your business and maintain a strong cash flow. (It can also help you keep your job as the manager.)

Most importantly, goals help measure success and set standards. How do you know how your team is performing if you don’t have a goal metric to which you can compare them?

Goals are milestones towards a larger objective. They pull you along, giving you the next thing you need to achieve in order to move in the direction of success. They put you on the pathway towards your main objective.

goal setting

What Types Of Goals Should You Set?

Goal setting is different in every industry, every team, and every culture. Generally, though, restaurant managers should set goals that relate to 5 key processes. This will help you measure and track growth; this will help you see where you’re succeeding and where you need more work; and this will help understand how different areas of your business work together to reach your overall management objectives.

1. Customer Service

Customer service will make or break your restaurant. In fact, customers are more forgiving of food mistakes than they are service mistakes. That means that customer service completely dictates whether you will get repeat customers, larger bills, and a loyal clientele.

These goals should be highly specific, measurable, and track-able. All employees must be on the same page in order to ensure these goals are met. For example, your goal could be: all customers should be seated within 5 minutes, unless there is a waitlist. Another option could be that servers must give a dessert recommendation to every table, as a way to both rack up the bill and give a personalized touch of service.

2. Food Quality

Of course you need high quality of food as well. This means setting strong goals for your kitchen staff. These goals don’t have to relate specifically to quality control, but they can. For example, a goal could be that you only source organic for three months. After three months, you’ll assess how that process impacted other areas of your business. Or maybe your goal will be to add a new item to the menu each month as a way of encouraging creativity and excitement amongst the kitchen staff.

3. Marketing

Customer service and food quality is how you impress customers and make them regulars. Marketing is how you bring diners in the door in the first place. You should consider team goals for your marketing campaign. Maybe you and your staff agree that you’ll all post one picture of the restaurant monthly on your personal Instagram pages. This gets the word out to friends and family, and it involves the entire team in the goal together. However you decide to market, make it a team effort for the entire restaurant; you all have a stake in how many customers come through the door, so you should all have a stake in the marketing campaign as well.

4. Employee Development

Training and coaching your employees should be a priority on your goals list. The effort you put into your employees comes out proportionally in customer service and quality client interactions. Maybe you make a goal to have one coaching conversation per shift. Or maybe you will create a restaurant award for employee of the month (which is based on goals and standards that are established).

5. Finances

And of course, you can’t forget the finances. Ultimately, all of your other goals—service, quality, marketing, and development— are made with the intention of making more money. Set specific, time-restrained financial goals. If you hit that objective number, look to see what goals helped you get there. If you don’t hit that number, see where your team and restaurant was lagging—and what goals you need to set for the upcoming quarter.


How Do You Set Goals?

1. Think of overall strategies.

What is your end target? What do you want for your company and team in the next month, six months, year, five years?

What activities will help you reach that objective?

Turn those activities into bite-sized pieces. Transform those actions into SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, timely).

2. Focus on company values.

When setting goals, you should always consider your company values. The strategy helps you align your goals towards a higher purpose; the company values help you associate your goals with your brand, customer, and staff.

Make your company values clear and defined. No matter what your key values are, every goal should be aligned with that mission. Even if your top value is “to serve the best plate of chicken,” you can now create goals surrounding the purpose of serving the best plate of chicken.

This gives your team a direction for accomplishing goals and pushing the company forward.

3. Set standards.

You know where you are headed and the way you’ll get there. Now you need to formally set the standards that will keep you on the course.

In order for goals to be met in a restaurant environment, your entire team needs to work together. That means you can’t let standards slip. Even one employee not working towards the goal can bring the whole team down.

For example, you want to elevate the level of customer service by 1 point. You could make it a goal for every staff member to say hello to every customer they pass for four months. After this goal is met, it starts to become a job standard because it’s a habit. They will continue to say hello to every customer, and the customer service will consistently go up.

Make job expectations (and consequences for not meeting those expectations) formal and clear. When someone consistently meets the standards, reward and recognize them.

When someone doesn’t meet the standards, have a conversation. Discuss the importance of the standards and the goals with regards to their job and the overall restaurant. Hear from their perspective. Help them meet those standards accordingly.

Set the standards and then work with your employees to maintain those standards.

P.S. Hold yourself to those same standards as well.

How Do You Reach Goals?

You’ve set goals based on your company’s objectives, values, and standards. How do you ensure those short-term and long-term goals are met? What is your role, as the manager, of goal-setting?

1. Stop putting out fires.

If you’re constantly reacting to situations, you never have time to strategize and work towards your goals. You’re focused on fixing problems right now rather than implementing strategies to avoid those problems in the future.

It’s time to be proactive. The more time you spend improving your restaurant’s procedures and employees, the less time you’ll spend fixing problems. The less time you fix problems, the more time you have to improve your restaurant. The more time you have to improve your restaurant, the more likely you’ll meet your goals and grow your business.

How do you stop spending your time putting out fires? Empower your employees to take the reigns. Coach them how to handle angry customers. Teach them to put out their own fire when it’s still a tiny spark. This means delegating out your problems.

2. Delegate.

Stop leading by crisis and hold your team members accountable for what they do. The more you delegate, the more time you’ll have to focus on strategy and goals. It also allows you to spend more time training your employees, talking to customers, and analyzing the successes and weaknesses of your business.

In addition, delegating goal-oriented tasks fashions a crew powered by collaboration and teamwork.

3. Schedule.


Don’t let your day be filled up by scheduling problems. In order to reach your goals, you need people present, active, and working.

Forge takes the scheduling burden off your plate. You can stop focusing on who needs to be there and when; you can instead focus on how to improve the individuals who are at work (and they’re at work because of the flexibility of Forge). You’ve freed up a major portion of your day that can be better utilized on goal-digging.

4. Give feedback.

Coaching towards standards and objectives is the best way to achieve your goals. If you’ve stopped spending so much time putting out fires, scheduling, and doing it all yourself…you have more time to spend coaching and guiding your employees.

The more coaching time you offer your employees, the more they will be engaged with their work—and the more they will want to help you reach your goals. Improved staff means improved service.

Be sure to give a mixture of positive and negative feedback. Coaching is about guiding, not chastising.

5. Get feedback.

With your newfound free time, talk to your customers face to face. Go up to their table after they get the bill; ask what went well and what could have gone better. Use feedback cards for honest, anonymous customer feedback.

This feedback is crucial to understanding how you are doing in accordance with your goals—especially your customer service objectives. This gives you a firsthand metric to help you see where you are succeeding and where you need to further improve to meet those goals.

The Bottom Line

Every goal, no matter how seemingly small, can save you money and push your restaurant to the next level. Set goals that are aligned with your strategy, values, and standards. Achieve your goals by freeing up your schedule to spend face time with employees and customers.

Scott Reed said, “This one step—choosing a goal and sticking to it—changes everything.” Let your goals change your management, your employees, and your business towards ever-growing success.