"I Can't" Equals "I Won't"

Don’t let this phrase hold you back

Cutting word “I can’t” flat lay

By David Scott Peters
TheRestaurantExpert.com

David Scott Peters is the founder of TheRestaurantExpert.com, which focuses on restaurant coaching and training for independent restaurants. He’s known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant in the United States and find you $10,000 before he hits the back door… Guaranteed!

At the TheRestaurantExpert.com, we have a Mastermind Group called the Elite Group. This group of 25 restaurant owners has been meeting at each others’ restaurants on a quarterly basis for more than 12 years now. Well over half the members have been in the group for eight to 10 years, with some from the very beginning. This group has been instrumental in shaping what TheRestaurantExpert.com offers and has shaped a lot of what we do here, including the creation of specific solutions such as training systems and SMART Systems Pro.

As you can imagine, some of these longtime members are far along on their restaurant journey. Here’s a few examples of where some of these Elite Members were when I first met them:

  • These members would hand out coupons to their guests while they were in line. They were reducing the ring at the register. They knew what numbers they needed, but were not able to pull them together. Many years later, they are experiencing record sales, they have 95 percent of ALL the systems in place, and are experiencing record profits to go along with it.
  • This member counted his bar drawers out every morning for two restaurants for 24 years. He didn’t have any real controls in place, no recipe cards, no inventories, no nothing. Many years later, he has 95 percent of ALL they systems in place, is experiencing record sales and record profits.
  • This member understood how to run profitably, but realized that it required him to be in the building or things would fall apart. He needed to get his management team trained on the systems so it didn’t require him to be in the building at all. Many years later he has a fully trained management team in place, has been able to concentrate on opening a catering business, go fishing when he wants, and is experiencing record sales and profits.
  • These members built a multi-unit business that is polished, with incredible product, has raving fans and incredible sales. The challenge was they were paying for executive level people and consultants to help for big money and weren’t getting results. Today, they don’t have the top dollar people, they have fully trained managers, 95 percent of ALL the systems in place and are experiencing record profits.
  • These members had two restaurants that required a partner to act as the General Manager in each location separately, and at one point in time one partner said, “over my dead body will we open another restaurant.” Fast forward many years later, they have eight restaurants, an FDA meat production company, they don’t run a single shift in any of the business and are experiencing records sales and profits.

And the list goes on. This is the most incredible group of restaurant owners/people I have ever had the pleasure and privilege to work with. The entire group is fantastic. There are so many success stories, I literally don’t have enough space in this article to tell you all of them. These were just the first ones to come to mind as I write this article.

Want to know what each and every one of these members have in common? They ALL lead their businesses along a path of success and no matter what, they never say or accept someone saying to them, “I can’t!”

Look, I need you to understand two more things: 1) they all started where you did or possibly even in a more challenging situation than yours, and 2) they are years into their journey. That means you can have their type of results if you’re willing to lead the change and ensure people are doing the work.

Why did I key in on the phrase “I can’t?” Because this short phrase is very powerful. How strong? It is as strong as Superman stopping a train traveling at full speed. Except the train that phrase stops is your businesses moving toward success! When someone says, “I can’t,” what they are really saying is, “I won’t!”

For example, owners have attended my workshop, gone home motivated to make changes happen in their business, but arrive to a chorus of employees and managers telling them they are too busy, their restaurant is different, it’s too much work, etc. Ultimately, I get a phone call from the owner saying, “David I love your systems, but I CAN’T get my managers to do the work.”

OMGoodness! Who signs those employees’ and managers’ paychecks? Listen to that statement when I change just two words, “David I love your systems, but I WON’T make my mangers do the work.” Isn’t that what the owner is really saying to me?

Other similar phrases:

  • I can’t raise my prices
  • I can’t cut labor
  • I can’t change my menu
  • I can’t find the time
  • I can’t leave my business
  • I can’t let someone else place the orders
  • I can’t have someone else take my inventories,
  • No!

I have also had managers/chefs look me dead in the eye and say, “It can’t be done that way.” All they really did is look me in the eye and say “NO, I am not going to do it, nor am I even going to try.”

When the words “I can’t” are used, every bit of hope and desire to make change happen is stopped dead in their tracks. Like Superman stopping that train, the people who use that phrase are digging in their heels and stopping your train called progress. (I know you can see that image in your mind right now because it’s so powerful and you know I’m right.)

So, what do you do when that phrase comes out of your mouth, your manager’s mouth or an employee’s mouth? You ask the person to rephrase their statement and say it back to you using the words “I won’t” instead of “I can’t.” It’s powerful!

Next, you need to explain to that person (or yourself) that you don’t want to hear the words I can’t. In fact, tell them you don’t want to hear why something can’t be done, but instead how it can be done. I understand that sometimes the suggested solution might be too expensive, might take too much time, might change the way we do things in a way that has a negative impact on the business, but at least we are exploring options instead of just digging in our heels and saying NO, I won’t do the work!

Back to my Elite Member success story examples. Like I said, these were just the first examples to pop into my head. There are many, many more examples I could add. As a reminder, these restaurant owners are where they are today, no matter how quickly or slowly they got there, because they all decided not to accept the words “I can’t” from themselves or anyone that works for them. These restaurant owners lead the changes in their restaurant and are willing to remove those who want to stop progress. While these I-can’t-employees may have done a great job in the past, today’s version of the company requires people on your team to buy into and embrace the changes you are making, even if it is a challenge.

Don’t let the phrase “I can’t” become a train stopper in your restaurant. Teach everyone to tell you how it can be done, hold people accountable and lead your team. This is how results are achieved.

Make Your Restaurant e-Newsletters More Enticing

happy email customer

Picked up from the National Restaurant Association

So now you have a restaurant customer’s email address. What’s next? When you reach out to each recipient, make every effort to include meaningful, personalized information and promotions. As each new email deploys, give customers solid reasons to keep opening your communications and coming back to your business.

Here are several ways to capture customers’ attention via email:

  • Address customers by name. Include the recipient’s first name in the subject line and in the body of the email. When you store this customer info in your database, enter it exactly as you’d like it to appear in an email so the system can pull directly from relevant fields, creating less of a headache for your marketing team. For example, don’t input customer names in all capital letters. No one wants to be shouted at in their inbox! That type of treatment also indicates the recipient is just one of many people you’re contacting, making the interaction less special.
  • Customize templates. Create emails that are eye-catching, optimized for mobile and incorporated in your greater marketing plan. Rather than having one or two standard email templates and simply switching up the text, arm your email arsenal with dynamic, image-centric templates and simple messages.To build marketing continuity, use those images and messages consistently across your digital properties. If you’re debuting a new seasonal special, promote it with the same high-resolution photos and a brief description in an email blast, on your website, in your social media posts and on the login page for your restaurant’s in-store Wi-Fi. Keep layouts simple and size images appropriately so they display correctly.
  • Call out customer favorites. Through your POS system, in-store Wi-Fi logins and/or online orders, you likely have an idea of customer ordering patterns. You may even ask customers to share a special personal date, such as their birthday, when they join your loyalty program. Acknowledge this information in your email marketing. Consider rewarding customers’ loyalty with a complimentary order of their favorite entrée, appetizer or dessert on their birthday to show your attentiveness and appreciation for their business. Include a photo of his or her most-ordered item to remind them why they love it.
  • Ask for feedback. After your customers complete a purchase at your restaurant, email them a short customer satisfaction survey. Reward those who participate with a discount for their next visit. All feedback is good feedback! Read the responses on a routine basis and identify areas for improvement.