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August, 2012

Practice Impossible (Part 4): What is On Your "Menu"

By N. Ray Tuck Jr., DC and K. Jeffrey Miller, DC, MBA

Recently we became interested in the television program Restaurant Impossible. The Food Network show is hosted by Robert Irvine, a noted chef and restaurateur. The premise of the show is to help failing restaurants by giving them a complete makeover. The makeover is carried out by the chef, a builder and an interior designer. The catch is the makeover has to be completed in forty eight hours on a budget of only ten thousand dollars.

If you follow the program for a short time you will quickly see that the chef focuses on five factors of the restaurant business, regardless of the size and type of restaurant. The five factors are; leadership, the staff, the menu, the décor and marketing. You will also realize that the methods he uses are not applicable only to the restaurant business but to any business.

This is why we like the show. The chef uses many of the same business principles we have used in running successful practices and consulting for other chiropractors.

This series of articles works through these business principles from our chiropractic prospective. In our this fourth article we focus on the menu.

What's Being Served?

Most of the failing restaurants in the show have very extensive menus. They are large trifold menus with dozens of choices. When the chef first sees menus of this length, he is critical. For many of the restaurants, the long menu reveals an identity crisis or over commitment. The owners are either unsure of the type of restaurant they want to have and/or trying to be everything to everybody.

Once he has seen the menu he orders one of almost everything for tasting. This usually adds to the criticism. Being a top chef, his standards are very high.

His next task is to quiz the owner. He wants to know which dishes sell the best and are most profitable. He will also quiz the serving staff and kitchen staff about their knowledge of the menu and its selections.

What does he find? Typically the owner has no idea which items sell the best or provide the most profit. They are often stocking food for meals that are seldom ordered. Much of this food spoils before it can be used. The owner then throws out the food and reorders it. This cycle repeats over and over again.

Quizzing the serving staff reveals that most cannot describe many of the dishes on the menu because it is too long and confusing. The kitchen staff is also confused by the enormity of the menu and is frequently forced to reference recipes instead of being able to immediately begin preparing an order. Confused, frustrated employees often quit, compounding the problems of an already failing business.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi was once asked why he ran such a simple offense when he had some of the most talented players to ever play the game. "It's hard to be aggressive if you are confused" he said. If you look at Lombardi's winning record you will see that the word successful could be substituted for the word aggressive.

How does the chef address these problems? He shortens the menu, usually to one or two pages. The new menu contains a mixture of the restaurant's original recipes and new ones of his creation. The new menu also reflects a specific cuisine. This sets the restaurant on course for the development of a specific identity.

Once the menu is set, the serving and kitchen staff are trained and quizzed again to make sure they are ready to use the menu. Those that are not ready are usually given one more chance and released if they fail a second time.

From that point the chef moves on the other tasks of overseeing the redecorating and marketing of the restaurant.

Your Practice's "Menu"

How does this apply to the business of chiropractic? Chiropractors' menus (list of services) are often too long. This can reflect the same lack of direction and identity crisis seen in the restaurants. Just as it is hard to be a steak, sea food, taco, pizza, burger, and hotdog restaurant with ice cream stands, it is hard to be a family wellness, nutritional, sports injury, personal injury, worker's compensation, rehabilitation and fitness practice. It is hard to be everything to everybody. We live in a specialized world and nobody can be an expert in everything!

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