Overall, 2019 was a pretty good year for our industry. Economic conditions have been extremely favorable (except for staffing) and delivery has opened up a lot of “new” occasions. 

Neil Culbertson, speaker at Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, General Session, 12/12/10.
Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, General Session, 11/12/19.
Photo Credit: Franchise Times.

Now, as we head into 2020, what will the next year hold? The truth is no one knows.  So, I wanted to share the advice I am giving my clients:  Take Control

Let’s admit it: there are some things that we cannot control – but, oftentimes I find this to be an excuse. There is a lot that we CAN control — we just need to be proactive and Go. For. It!

So here are 7 tips on things you are in control of, to improve your business:

1. THE GUEST – Yes, Millennials and Gen Z are here – this is no longer futuristic. (Clue: “OKBoomer”!) For most brands, these two cohorts are now the CORE of your business. So, if you aren’t truly attuned with these consumers – you have to be.  

2. THE CHANNEL – Off Premise continues to far outpace overall traffic. While everyone’s been chasing Delivery, I came away from the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference feeling that the potential for delivery is far more questionable today due to its still-unproven financial viability. So, Off-premise? DINE-IN should still be Job #1. Then TO-GO.

3. YOUR FOOTPRINT – Have you right-sized your concept? Are you keeping poor-performing units open? Have you done a strategic assessment on what your brand can profitably support? Does your prototype fit today’s business realities? Play offense here. Sometimes hard decisions are necessary.

 4. YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION – As you know, I believe strongly that “value” has been redefined and is vitally important today. At RFDC, I shared what I believe comprises value today: 

5. CONTINGENCY PLAN – What if a downturn starts in 2020? Are you ready…namely, do you have a plan that’s ready to implement? Everyone I talk with believes it’s coming…the timing is what is uncertain. Don’t wait…get your plan together…now. 

6. YOUR GUT – What part(s) of your business could be better? For example, are you willing to accept declining traffic as the new reality or are you resolved to grow transactions?  

7.  THE SUM – Is your brand REMARKABLE today? Be honest. If it is, how can you keep your momentum? If not, have you taken the hard step to honestly assess what’s needed? You don’t need to completely reinvent yourself, but how do you need to evolve to get onto the winning side?? 

Kicking off a new decade is exciting, especially because so much of our success is within our control. 

I welcome your thoughts on this. As always, I am here and happy to work with you to identify and capture the opportunities your concept has to excel and prosper in 2020.

Best, Neil 

For over 15 years, Growth Partners has provided outsourced Chief Marketing Officer consulting to restaurant companies. I am a fresh set of eyes for current CEO’s & CMOs, as well as a Part-Time or Interim CMO for concepts looking to grow their businesses and brands. Follow me at www.growthhq.comor on Facebook @growthpartnersllc