Are Dead Skunks Spoiling Your Restaurant Business?

 In 8. Guest Bloggers, Leadership, SMART Systems, Training
Striped Skunk - Mephitis mephitisBy Brad Hackert

I’ve found that in most restaurants, when an owner implements systems and procedures, management can get a little too focused. They tend to focus on daily tasks and miss the most important priorities that have the biggest customer impact.

For example, on one consulting trip, I witnessed a management team ignore a dead skunk that was laying in the landscaping outside of the restaurant’s front doors. The management team didn’t have to wait for the medical examiner or clergy to arrive on scene before dealing with their smelly little issue. Instead, management overlooked the issue and began their opening checklists.

Just because something doesn’t fall on your checklist doesn’t mean it isn’t a priority. Management needs to be taught that some items, inside and outside of your restaurant, need immediate attention, and others need to be transferred onto a daily to-do list or checklist.

In this instance, the opening manager should have noticed the horrifically strong skunk smell when doing the daily morning walkthrough and taken action to figure out its source. Before the restaurant opened, or before other employees continued to arrive, action should have been taken to remedy the situation.

What are some of the “dead skunks” in your business? Is it a leaky men’s room urinal, the walk-in freezer door that doesn’t close due to the massive ice buildup, or the drain in the bar that smells like your sewer dumps into it? Whatever the issue is, you need to train your management team to move the “dead skunks” to the top of their to-do list.

Sometimes good managers get in the habit of only noticing the crumbs on the floor, old light bulbs, or cobwebs in the corners, and become blind to bigger issues. A way to break this habit of conformity is to train them to immediately react to conditions that could harm employees, harm customers or harm the business.

If a customer walks by a rotting skunk by the front door, do you think that might harm the business? How about the ice buildup in the freezer? Not only can this harm employees because of a slip and fall hazard, but also it could take products out of temperature, resulting in harming customers with the potential of foodborne illness.

I’m not trying to say the other tasks in the restaurant aren’t important, but unexpected priorities need to take precedence to ensure the smooth operation of your business.

Train your managers to make sure they know what your restaurant’s “dead skunks” are and what your expectations are to get them resolved.

Brad Hackert is an independent consultant and owner of Systems Pro Consulting, providing on-site systems implementation support to restaurant owners everywhere. He works in restaurants with independent restaurant owners to teach them how to make SMART Systems work in their restaurants. He’s a restaurant owner and systems advocate. For more information visit his site at

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