May 3, 2021

The Building Blocks of Operational Excellence

by Jillian Straw

Excellence in the restaurant industry can mean many things. Excellent dining service, a tight operations team, or a razor-sharp focus on managing ingredient costs. 

In the restaurant industry, having a solid foundation of operational excellence can mean the difference between thriving or closing down. 

Operational excellence in its basic form involves continually making improvements to a company in order to achieve competitive advantages. In the hospitality industry this is especially useful. 

The key things to focus on can be broken down into three overarching topics: 

Being proactive, being communicative, and being consistent.

Sure, those may sound like buzz words, but it must be said and drilled into often. Internalizing those ideals is the first step.

With that in mind, let’s dig in.

Being Proactive

With restaurants opening and closing daily throughout the country, having a competitive food menu that provides good value for money is the best way to ensure your restaurant stays in the game.

Your first take might be that lowering prices is a strategy to beat out the other restaurant down the block, but cutting prices also means cutting profits. The restaurant industry is notorious for it’s already slim margins, after all.

So instead of looking at what your competitors are pricing their menu at, look to your vendors. Being able to track the prices of individual ingredients and be alerted the moment there is a fluctuation is the only real way to capitalize on profit. Having a mis-match between your menu price and the actual cost of your ingredients that week is a surefire way to kill your margins.

Your choices are then either spending hours searching for where and why each item price change occurred, or use automation platforms like Ottimate’s Insights module.

This way you are able to see if an individual price has changed- whether out of nowhere, or a seasonal pattern that you’ve noticed over time- and also compare each of your vendors and the prices they are changing in your different locations. In that case the savings really start to compound. From there your ability to have competitive prices without getting shimmed on the deal is fully attainable.

In the past this type of invoice analysis was only really possible if you were a forensic accountant. For the average Restaurateur it’s likely these price discrepancies would not be found until you’re reconciling statements and closing your books at the end of the period- far past when that information would have actually been powerful and actionable for you.

Being Communicative

Above we mentioned that with Insights you may see that there is potential for negotiation with your vendors on item prices. Maintaining consistent pricing across locations alone can be a game changer.

Insights also gives you the ability to email your vendor directly from the platform, even going so far as to allow you to link the invoice in question to avoid any contradictions the vendor may try to claim. This external communication is key in getting the credits and pricing contracts you need to be competitive on your menu.

Internal communication is just as important to running a successful restaurant. For instance, an internal invoice approval workflow is a necessity, and Advanced Approvals even more so.

Say an invoice came in last week and the vendor is still waiting for payment that had been due three days later. If the Shift Leader was supposed to approve that invoice and it slipped through the cracks the GM shouldn’t have to hunt down the shift leader in order to figure out what happened.

Setting up workflows to either allow multiple people the opportunity to approve- or a step that alerts the GM after those first three days so that they can get in touch with the shift leader directly to remind them, helps avoid any late fees and adds a layer of accountability.

Being Consistent

You could have the best game plan and workflows in place and still have difficulty finding success. A lot of the time this is due to those operations not being adhered to as strictly as they should be.

An unexpected rush comes just as your chef is usually doing his inventory or the General Manager is verifying invoices for payments in the office. The customer comes first and so those tasks are put on hold, creating the opportunity for problems with the first tasks to arise.

Having your team work together is the best and only way to maintain consistency. The Chef may have orders to fill for this rush but if the rest of their kitchen staff has the tools and training, the Chef will be able to delegate either the completion of the inventory count or the handling of the first few tickets. If the GM has an assistant,  or trusts in the rest of the front of house, then they may not need to be on the floor right away.

Being able to delegate tasks can only be accomplished with excellent and ongoing training of the staff (kind of like Ottimate’s ongoing training webinars!). Something that you should look for in every aspect of your restaurant. With repetition comes perfection and that is the name of the game when looking at the efficiencies of your operations.

Why is operational excellence important?

  • Enhances customer experience: better processes save employees time so they can focus on activities that drive value, like delivering excellent customer service.
  • Improves customer loyalty: high levels of consistency mean customers know what to expect every time they visit, which leads to brand loyalty.
  • Reduces costly mistakes: putting the right systems in place, enables employees to get it right every time. This saves time, resources and ultimately boosts your bottom line.
  • Boosts productivity: teams are empowered and know how to do their job well. They have the tools to support them which improves motivation, job satisfaction and boosts performance… and your customers will notice it.
  • Increases agility: businesses that encourage a culture of continuous improvement can stay ahead of the competition by adapting quickly to changing consumer and market demands.


The streamlined processes in using automation to improve operational excellence makes monitoring the workflows easier. Such restaurants thrive on having well-defined processes, rules and measurements aimed to make operations more efficient. Restaurants can more easily scale, opening new locations that fit nicely into the existing internal structures.

There’s no exact formula for operational excellence, it will look different for every restaurant. But there are some easy steps you can follow to achieve the best standard of operational excellence possible. 

Some of those steps can be seen above, but for more personal examples of operational excellence checking out the Customer Stories section of Ottimate can give you a birds eye view into the operations of some of the top restaurants scattered around the country and show you how automation can aid in the creation of these environments.

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