As several big name restaurants face bankruptcy and many more struggle with failing revenue, l caution restaurant owners and top management now, more than ever, scrutinize operations and customer service.

This month, popular pizza-and-pasta group Sbarros and sandwich chain Quiznos both filed for bankruptcy protection.

To survive the increasingly competitive environment and uncertain economy, I offer these tips to help independent and franchise restaurants alike stay relevant and maximize profits.

1. Train Staff to Educate, Inform, Suggest and Sell
According to, the word server means to ‘wait on a table.’ To wait is passive and implies inaction.

The word ‘sell,’ on the other hand, means ‘to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something.’
Restaurant staffs need to stop ‘waiting’ and start selling.

“Too many servers operate as order takers instead of taking the opportunity to sell. Guests rely on servers—who know a restaurant’s menu the best—to make the right suggestions and provide an ‘experience.’ And when your staff are trained to upsell, everyone makes more money,”

“Satisfied guests become repeat diners. When they share their experience in positive online reviews and social media, the benefits are amplified.”

2. Create Strategic Alliances
In today’s marketing reality, restaurants should make it a priority to reach as many people online as possible with positive messages about their business. This is possible, but not if you go it alone. Partnering with complementary businesses, including tourist attractions, hotels, retail shops, local events and festivals, is a highly effective means to get your brand in front of target audiences and generate buzz.

3. Routinely Analyze
Ever-changing consumer preference and the increased use of technology to make dining decisions mean operators must constantly review their own operation, menu, marketing and pricing—and that of competitors.

Operators should compare vendors and pricing at least bi-yearly, especially food suppliers, credit card processors and payroll vendors.

4. Perfect the Method
“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” ~Mike Murdock

Consistent kitchen procedures, portion control and food presentation each, in their own way, directly impact restaurants’ bottom line. Monitor them to avoid setbacks.

5. Control Costs
There’s often discussion of all the ways there are to lose money in the business—but there are several things restaurant operators can do to cut potential losses by changing how they do business.

Know your prime operating costs, including food, beverage and labor, and be relentless about these numbers and percentages. Conduct weekly cost comparisons of your top 10-20 inventory items (highest volume and/or most expensive) and then price shop them with at least 2 of the top 3 vendors in your area. Finally, ensure maximum use of all products by using them across the menu. These are just a few ways to reign in your costs.