October 27, 2014

Operational Excellence

Have you ever pondered the meaning of operations? Possibly not. What about excellence? Over many years of pondering and implementing food operations strategies, there are a few key points that I thought it would be worth sharing. Just for the record, Operations can be described as the daily activities that generate your sales, profit and business value. And excellence? Well, excellence is excellence, it’s being very good at what you do. So Operational Excellence is simply being very good at the things that make your business profitable and valuable.

Here are a few ways that will make your business stand out for all the right reasons and set you on the path to growth and profitability.

You Must Have A Plan 

A good plan helps you choose where you want to go and how you want to get there. It doesn’t matter if your plan is written on a napkin, the back of an envelope or a piece paper. It doesn’t matter if it is typed or hand written, and it doesn’t matter if it is short or long. What does matter is that you have it written down. The good news is that unless you really want to, or need to, a one-page plan with a brief vision, goal and some objectives will set you on your path. Like the old cliché says … if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Failure To Implement (FTI) 

If you spend time looking at the way successful people operate, one of things they all have in common is that they take action. None of them suffer from FTI. Sometimes you just need to take action.

Develop A Culture Of Excellence 

Culture being the visible behaviour displayed within your business, it is vital that you get this right. Every business has a culture; you just need to choose what culture you want. Have you ever been into a particular business that feels dull, lifeless and unenthusiastic? In contrast, have you ever walked into a business that is vibrant, active and positive? The chances are that the second business has great leadership and there is an active plan towards developing the culture that suits the business, people and their customers. You will make significant progress when you identify the culture and behaviour that you would like displayed by your team. Fun, Fast and Friendly comes to mind.

Take It Back To Basics

Sometimes we can lose focus on the fundamentals of our business. Remember the things that made you different when you opened; are they still done today? When was the last time you stopped and really looked at the quality, service and cleanliness of your business? Make sure it is clean and that the simple things are being done well. Taking your business back to basics has a massive impact on your ability to grow sales. Do this easily and regularly; spend time creating and reviewing operational documents to refer back to. Make sure you have very clear specifications for every product, menu item and procedure in your business. Train your staff to deliver excellence by using these documents as guides and deliver consistency. Procedures should be designed to deliver high quality product in times of volume as well as in slower periods. Treat every order as if it is the only order on the screen. Remember that your customers tend to drinks only one cup of coffee at a time; make sure theirs is the best, always.

Engage Loyalty 

Loyal customers are the foundation of your business. Meet your customers’ needs and they will return the favour through loyalty, word of mouth and increased sales. Provide your customers with certainty: certainty of offer, certainty of trading hours and certainty of experience. To mix this up, provide some variety at the same time. Limited time offers, new taste experiences, and even different music. Make your customers feel important and appreciated. Engage your customers with your business and have them feel connected. Are they part of your tribe? Spend some time understanding why your customers are loyal to your business. Is it the coffee? Is it the food? Is it your barista? Or is it you? Loyalty is always earned over time. This can be done through great experience, creating emotional connections and an environment that creates community. Often loyalty is built through successful handling of complaints and conflict. Get out there and implement a loyalty program that doesn’t include the 10th coffee for free.

Know Your Numbers

Linking operations to financial performance is often the missing link in business growth. Every action, step and procedure taken will have an effect on your bottom line. Unless you are measuring metrics that shine a light on these, you are leaving money on the table. Remember, what gets measured gets managed, and that information is key. The more knowledge you have, the smarter your decisions will be. Put systems in place that will track your performance. Measure sales, productivity, yields and product mix. Measure your performance against the same time last year and share the information with your team. Don’t forget to review your P&L and financial results every month.

Hire, Train And Retain The Best Team You Can

This may sound obvious; however, hire the best team you can find. Hire them right, train them right, and they will stick. Implement systems that will keep them motivated, positive and passionate about your business. Engage them and meet their needs, and they will also return the favour.  Address poor performance and expect high standards. Provide leadership that gives direction and focus, however, encourages growth and contribution. Understand that passion and enthusiasm trumps talent every time.

Be Replaceable

The time comes when you need to step out.  Unless you are super human or are a machine, you need to take regular time out of your business. It is a false economy to work yourself into the ground to save money. In the long run, you will burn out and have less fuel to run your business. Being replaceable is part of the operational excellence cycle. Train your team to cover your responsibilities. This could be in the form of an assistant manager or team leader. You need to be able to take time off and the business will still operate. You may get sick, need a holiday or need to leave the business for a period of time. Can your business operate without you for a period of time? Remember that an indicator of business success is the performance of the business in the absence of the owner.

Understand The Power Of Systems 

Develop systems around procedures, policy and financial management to provide your business and customers with consistency. Systemisation also gives the freedom to work on your business, take time out and be replaceable.


Be different and always look for new ways to impress your customers and your team. Gain feedback and have systems and responsibilities to continually improve and update your offer, procedures and the ways of doing business. Simply implement operational excellence principles.

About the Author

Jim Davidson is a Business Growth Specialist and senior partner at Food Associates, working with food and café operators to identify and implement innovative growth strategies.

T. 0410 525 741 


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