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Industry insiders share the secrets to success

robert irvine jon taffer nra

History was made on Monday, May 23, at the NRA Show 2016 when the show’s first-ever crowdsourced session was held. The event, “Reality Gets Real,” which was presented by Sysco, featured trailblazers and ambassadors chef Robert Irvine of “Restaurant: Impossible” and Jon Taffer of “Bar Rescue.”

Both speakers talked about their experiences with helping failing operations identify common pitfalls and address them before they become critical. They provided perspective on what it takes to pull an operation back from the brink of failure, shared horror stories and successful anecdotes and reminded the audience of why so many people choose to work in the hospitality industry.

Both agreed that the No. 1 pitfall that causes a concept to fail is that leaders don’t take responsibility for the problems that take place in their operations. In too many instances, a location’s leadership doesn’t employ “the buck stops here” ideology. “The common denominator in failure is excuses. Owners are always blaming someone else for their mistakes—Congress, road construction, new competitors,” says Taffer. “What I’ve learned over time is that if I can get an owner to admit they are the excuse and reason for their operation’s failure, they have a chance at being successful.”

Change, however, doesn’t come easy. “If leadership blames someone else, then they have no reason to change. When leadership finally accepts the fact that they are the reason for failure, they will take the responsibility to create a desire to change and make improvements,” says Irvine. “A boss will just tell you what to do, but a leader will show you by example how to do something.”

Other than not owning up to their mistakes, some leaders don’t operate on logic; instead, they operate more on emotions. Many businesses are family owned for years and years, and they’ve been doing the same thing since they opened. “Change is hard to make, but operating a business on emotions will block your road to success,” Taffer says.

Irvine agrees. “When I go into an operation, I need to break down the owner’s emotion, get in their face and build them back up the right way of doing business,” he says, “which includes everything from the servers, the menu, kitchen flow and, more importantly, the leadership role they have.”

A third key area that causes failure is not understanding the power of branding. “Branding is not a logo, a color, an interior design,” says Taffer. “A brand is what we do—delivering an experience. A brand is something that’s built over time by creating customer reactions.”

Irvine suggests that it is the leader’s responsibility to change their operation every three years in order to stay ahead of competition. “There’s someone always opening a new restaurant or bar where the people are prettier, they have a new bar, it’s shiner and newer everything. There’s someone always trying to take your place.”

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®

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