An Ohio State University study found that 60% of restaurants don’t make it a full year in business, and a whopping 80% fail before they reach their fifth birthday. The odds for new restaurants aren’t great. But, the reward for those who are able to dig their heels in and endure, is great. So, what can be done to give your restaurant the best possible chance at success? Below we outline five priorities to keep in mind as you navigate the first five years of business.

1. Be flexible even if it makes you uncomfortable

Most restaurants don’t happen overnight. Instead, they happen after many months and likely many years of dreaming. Those dreams become plans that are specific and personal. But, reality and planning don’t always mesh, and when they don’t flexibility is key.

For instance, a menu item you’ve always done the same way may need to be revamped when a specialty shop featuring a dozen versions opens up down the block. This can be an issue in any aspect of the business… far beyond the menu.

Whatever it may be, one thing is certain: businesses that fail to adjust also fail to survive.

2. Have patience and faith in your staff

It’s a mistake to believe that every employee you hire will have the same vision and skills that you do. Not only has it been proven that having a flexible boss makes for healthier employees, but it also ensures you don’t miss untapped potential.

See your staff as the individuals they are, each with unique viewpoints and talents.

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking employees with a load of potential simply because they learn differently than you teach. Or communicate differently than you do. See your staff as the individuals they are, each with unique viewpoints and talents. They are more likely working with the best of intentions, and if they’re not, it could be because they aren’t sure they’re in an environment where their well-being is at the forefront.

3. You have to be willing to reflect

It can be so very easy to fall into a rhythm that fails to critically analyze every meal service. Especially when things seem to be going well. But, it is crucial that each and every component is assessed with consistency.

In regards to sub-par preparation and execution, celebrity chef Robert Irvine says, “Day-in and day-out food preparation and presentation becomes routine — sometimes almost a factory-like motion — and can lead to steps being skipped and key ingredients missed over a period of time. It’s like de-evolution. Very slowly your most popular dish can start to veer off its intended flavor profile and your cherished execution can stray from what is best for the end product.”

Always re-evaluate, but do so while shouldering the responsibility that your role requires.

4. You have to really care about the customers

While all of us in the service industry have smiled our way through bad days, if you’re going to make it for the long-haul, customer service has to be genuine. Today’s customer can spot a lack of authenticity from a mile away. The surest way to lock-in customer loyalty is to care about their experience and to prove it to them.

“Customer concerns come in infinite varieties, with infinite moods, paces and nuances. So instead of training to a script, the best thing an organization can do is teach its people to deal with situations, both good and difficult. Give them the tools to recognize behaviors and respond appropriately and effectively,” says expert Micah Solomon.

“The public changes its palate and like them, we always have to keep evolving… evolution, always.”

5. Remember, the only direction to travel is forward

This point is the marriage of all the preceding points. Being able to recognize all of the potential avenues for growth in all the areas of your business is what can make or break a fledgling restaurant.

In the words of Michelin-rated chef David LeFevre, “The public changes its palate and like them, we always have to keep evolving… evolution, always.”

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