What We Can Learn From Chain Restaurants…

“Pffft…Corporate restaurants” (imagine my best scoffing declaration of disgust)!

You want to know how to suck the soul from a perfectly good restaurant and bludgeon its culture to bloody oblivion? Turn it over to a corporation and watch its livelihood being sucked from it like a vampire draining his victim until he/she is pale and bloodless.

Ok, sorry, but it helps if I can vent all my negative feelings towards evil empires and get them out of me, like sucking snake venom from a bite, so that I can express myself in a healthier and more unbiased manner. 

The truth is, I don’t really have anything against corporations. In fact, I order take-out from Panda Express and Chipotle so much that they call out my name when I walk in.

It’s more of a feeling of loss to me when I see so many chain restaurants dominating an area, a nostalgic loss, like that feeling of sitting in a big comfy chair at a quaint bookstore and reading a book. A real book. With paper and stuff. Those places are nearly extinct.

I’m not saying I don’t have an iPad loaded with books on my Kindle app, because I do, and I love having 500 books that I can hold in one hand. But there’s something about the days of yesteryear, for no other reason than I love when individuality reigned supreme (I swear I’m getting to the educational part of this article soon).

Think about when you walk into a dive bar. You may not like the dinginess or filth that may exist, but there’s something mysterious and uncharted about it. You won’t find that same bar anywhere on the planet (for better or worse).

Now, I will say that the reason we all love the corporate cookie-cutter style bars and restaurants of today is because of the familiarity it provides, but there is no wonderment or “tingling” of the senses when you walk in. The culture and staff appear uninspired and methodical. Your curiosity becomes deadened by sameness and predictability. In our lives, we call that a rut. That’s what corporations feel like to me sometimes: a rut.


And this is a big however, especially when you’re a business owner and what you care about most at the end of the day is making a profit so your kids don’t get dropped off at school wearing Kleenex boxes for shoes.

The feelings I’ve expressed towards corporations thus far have been from a consumer/customer stand-point. But when we look at chains from a business owner stand-point, everything gets flipped on its keister. 

Here it is: in general, when it comes to profit percentage, chain restaurants make nearly double what individual restaurants make. Despite what we think of them as consumers, they are doing their best to defeat the old dismal “85%-of-restaurants-go-out-of-business-in- -their-first-3-years” statistic. And many of them do it very well.

And in this sense, I salute them as I would a U.S. war veteran (actually, I would salute them a level just below that, because veterans who protect us are heroic and brave and totally more awesome than a chain restaurant).


There’s one answer here and one answer only that matters, and the only answer you should care about:


That’s it.

Not like, “That’s it, see you later.”

More like, “That’s it, stop worrying about how you can squeeze more money out of karaoke night.”

I’m not saying it’s simple to put systems in place. I’m saying that systemizing your bar/restaurant is what you should be focusing on the most if you want to run a more profitable business, and it will eventually make your life simpler once they are in place.

I’ve been preaching systems heavily for the past three years now because after working with and speaking with hundreds of bar/restaurant owners and managers, I can see the pattern, and it’s consistent as hell.

The ones that systemize are killing it. The ones that show up on a daily basis and just sort of wing it and hope for the best are in big fucking trouble. 

What it comes down to is systemizing your business puts you at a huge advantage when it comes to controlling costs (food, bar and labor), training your staff, saving you time and increasing productivity, and perhaps the most important one of all for people like you and me: providing a more consistent customer experience.

As dull as it may sound, people LOVE familiarity and knowing that they can get the same thing every time they walk into a restaurant. That’s why chains like Starbuck’s and McDonald’s are so popular: I can get the same Big Mac here in Martinez, CA as I can in Chicago, IL. It’s comforting to know that.

But here’s the exciting part: you can do the same thing at your bar/restaurant without becoming a sterile clone, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice your vision, your originality or your culture. Providing a consistent customer experience is nothing more than creating a set of rules that everyone follows so that people get that same feeling of familiarity and comfort when they think of your business.

Think about it: one day, on a whim, you decide to try a new bar/restaurant that you’ve never been to before, and when you get there you order a Mai Tai and a Porterhouse, medium-rare with a side of mashed potatoes and  seasonal veggies. You find the Mai Tai a balanced combination of booze and juices, the steak is cooked perfectly, the mashed potatoes creamy and the veggies are broiled with just the right amount of crispiness. And the server? Completely attentive, warm, knowledgable and friendly. Your feeling of that new place: “I’m definitely coming back here!”

However, the next time you come in, you order the exact same thing, because we are creatures of habit. But this time the Mai Tai tastes completely different, way too much juice and no dark rum on top. The steak and veggies are overcooked, the potatoes are lumpy, and you can’t get a goddamn refill on your water.

How do you feel? Disoriented.

Are you coming back? Fat chance.

By simply putting systems in place, by building a business of consistency, you can avoid this disaster from ever happening to you. And as we all know, it is WAAAAY cheaper to build recurring customers than it is to acquire new ones.


Great question, so glad you asked.

As we’ve already discussed, going “cookie-cutter” might seem a bit sterile, so what you need to do is build systems that mimic chain restaurants, but that are still customized to your business.

Here are the systems that the successful chain restaurants put in place that ensure consistency, productivity and increased profits:


We start with financial systems because if you aren’t tracking what’s going on in your business on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, you can’t see where you’re leaking profits and how to fix them. Chain restaurants have their finances locked-in to ensure they are retaining every dollar that walks through the door. If you have very minimal financial systems in place (or none at all), you are welcome to start here and check out the daily, weekly and monthly financial templates our clients use to systemize this part of their business. We house these templates on my other site, TheRealBarman.com.


Yes, you all know how much I love inventory and preach having a quality system in place, and that’s because this is the low hanging fruit. Every smart chain restaurant has a quality inventory system in place, and by “quality” I mean modern. No more spreadsheets.

The reason I run an inventory management company is not because I love counting shit, it’s because this is the fastest and easiest way to immediately increase your profits by thousands of dollars each month by stopping the negligence going on behind the bar. You’re already on the website here, but you can click here to see how Bar Patrol works at anytime.


This involves how you hire and train your staff so that you make sure:

1) They aren’t numbskulls (that’s the hiring part), and

2) They deliver an outstanding, consistent experience every time (that’s the training part).

Check Out:

How To Hire The Perfect Restaurant Employee (10 Questions)

And the only way to ensure the 2nd one is to put in a set of rules that states exactly what they should say and how they should say it (using their own personalities, of course). Remember, that’s all systemizing is: a set of rules. Though many owners and managers don’t think about it, customer service is something that should be systemized. It’s not just telling them to smile and be happy.

The following video is an example of a set of rules we offer owners and managers to give them an idea of how to systemize their customer service. You are welcome to customize it any way you want. Check out the video here:

The Perfect 10-Step Customer Service System For Your Restaurant


From weekly, monthly and annual promotions to using social media to word-of-mouth, marketing is possibly the most difficult area to systemize. There are a million different ways to do it, and even when you choose a way, you then have to execute it to perfection to make it work. When it comes right down to it, your staff is your #1 marketing tool, because as I’ve already mentioned, if you can get your customers to come back, it will be more profitable for you. Not to mention the natural word-of-mouth marketing those customers will do for you.

However, after the staff is well-trained at customer service, you need to take it to the next level. I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to marketing, but for the past year or so, I met a guy who absolutely kills it for his clients in the area of bar/restaurant marketing, so to keep things simple, I’ve been sending people straight to him. He is the Jedi Master of bar/restaurant marketing. Not only is his system for marketing bringing in a boatload of money for bars and restaurants, he GUARANTEES you will make back $500 for every $100 you spend, or you get your money back, so you have nothing to lose.

For starters I would get his free book which has tons of value in it. You can check him out here: Nick Fosberg, Bar & Restaurant Success Free Book

Even though there are other areas for systemizing, I’ll stop there for the day so as not to overwhelm you. If you concentrated on just these 4 areas, using a set of rules you create and a series of checklists, you would see substantial improvement in your productivity and your profits that mirror the success of chain restaurants.

SIDE NOTE: I’m also in the process of finishing a new course, Systemize Your Bar/Restaurant, which covers all of these areas in great detail. I basically hold your hand and tell you exactly how to systemize your business from top to bottom with templates and checklists and personal support. The whole enchilada. 

If you’d like to get in on the Early Bird special, let me know. I’m offering a substantial discount to the course for those who get on the list. You can email me at info@barpatrol.net and just put “Early Bird Special” in the subject line, and we’ll message you when the pre-release of the course comes out.

Have a great week. Make a million. See you next time.



Tags:how to. run a bar how to run a restaurantrestaurant management how to open a restaurantinventory management inventory management system bar inventory control systembusiness systems bar management

Leave a Comment

Join 10,000+ Owners and Managers

Get awesome tips, tricks and strategies to help you become an undisputed expert at running your bar & restaurant.