For many, January is a time to reflect on the past year and make plans for a successful new one. Whether in your personal or professional life, New Year’s Resolutions are a great way to hold yourself accountable for a set of goals to achieve throughout the year. The same can be said for food business owners. While setting resolutions is one way that business owners align their business’ journey for the year ahead, it’s not the only way to prepare for a successful New Year!
To get insight into the minds of successful food business and restaurant owners, we spoke with several ICC Food Business Fundamentals alumni and instructors. They shared what they do at the beginning of each New Year to set their business up for success. Get their tips and advice below to see what you can integrate into your business’ routine!
Jay Spencer | ICC Food Business '11
“Periodic reflection keeps me grounded and steers me forward. To prepare for the year ahead, I spend time reviewing our product offerings and creating a development plan for our staff. I find looking back on the previous year for what we produced and how well it sold useful to determine what works and what we want to change. We are always pushing ourselves to do different things but to also come back to things that people love.
I can never spend enough time on developing our staff. I am surrounded by talented people, some who have been with me before I opened the cafe. It is a tremendous accomplishment to maintain my team but to also guide them in developing themselves, and the business, in a way that creates ownership and a shared responsibility to do the best we can for our guests and each other.”
Mario Rodriguez | ICC Culinary Arts '09
“I tackle every new year in two ways: Goals & Investments. For Goals, I would plan about 2 years out and make them pretty lofty. Then work your way back to the present day to figure out the road-map that will take to get there. It can be daunting but you’ll be surprised how it forces you to accomplish the initial milestones much quicker. For Investments, I look for where I can reinvest my money back into the company. Things like, hiring a designer for your website, investing in a copywriter, pull off a full re-brand, or even acquire another business that will better complement yours. For one, it’s a tax write off. And two, it’s a necessity in order to stay competitive in the food space which is always changing.”
Adam Lathan | ICC Food Business '15
“It sounds cheesy but every year I write down a simple series of goals for revenue, staffing and operations. I put my goals in my digital calendar and send myself a weekly reminder so that I think about what direction the business is going on a weekly basis.
Owning a business is hard, owning a restaurant is ridiculously hard… so doing something as simple as setting a major series of goals and reminding yourself of them is how you can keep focused on the bigger picture as the challenges of day-to-day operations come about.”
“At the start of a new year I always:
- Follow up on any outstanding accounts receivable from the previous year
- Close out the books from the previous year ASAP
- Set up a meeting with my accountant!
- Reach out to any regular clients to check in on their needs and any relevant deadlines/timelines to put in my own calendar
- Renegotiate any annual contracts”
Suji Park | ICC Food Business '09
“In Korea, we have a saying that translates to “Did you have a good dream?” The intention behind this is having a positive mindset. I like to refer to this saying at the start of every new year. My tip for aspiring entrepreneurs is to start the year off with unwavering positivity and self-confidence. This mindset will not only affect your work, but it will help encourage and motivate those around you, specifically if you are managing a team.
I also suggest getting your ‘house’ in good order. In Korea, the first day of the new year is spent with your family, cleaning, and organizing. You can apply this to your work ‘home’ as well. Take the time at the beginning of the new year to figure out how to be more organized and efficient than the previous year. Reflect on the challenges you faced and what systems can be put into place to help overcome those challenges.”
Rob Anderson | ICC Food Business '13 & Culinary Arts '14
“I don’t start the year with lists. I start with a vision.
Whenever I start something new—whether it’s a new project, a new system, or a new year—I begin by writing out a vision. Not a to-do list. Not a flowchart. Not a spreadsheet.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing gets me going like a good ol’ spreadsheet. But how can I start detailing how I will get something done before I’ve even given myself a little time and space to picture what exactly I want the end product to be? We get so wrapped up in everything that needs to get done or the granular details that we often forget to define the best case scenario of what we’d like to see happen.
A vision is a detailed picture of the success of a project at a particular time in the future. To write one, all you need is a blank piece of paper, a pen, and a stopwatch. Set your clock for 15 minutes, pick a point in the future, and just start writing a stream-of-consciousness story, as quickly as you can, about what success looks like at that moment.
What have you created? What do you see? Who helped? How? How do you feel? You might be surprised about what will come pouring out. New ideas. Pent up emotions. Subconscious desires. An inspirational road-map.
I learned this technique from Ari Weinzweig, a co-founder of the Zingerman’s community of businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the most forward thinking (and delicious) restaurant groups in the country. At Zingerman’s, they write visions all the time. Each is written to be inspiring, strategically sound, documented, and shared. It’s one of the secrets to their success.
To be honest, I was skeptical at first. To my list-loving, get-down-to-brass-tacks, kitchen-mentality, prep-list-making mind, it all seemed a bit too, well, hippy dippy. But I figured if it worked for Zingerman’s—which has grown over the last 37 years into a $70-million-dollar-a-year company—that it just might work for me and my business, as well. And it has. Who knows, give it a shot and it might help you transform your goals into realities, too.
Read more about how visioning works: https://www.zingtrain.com/content/why-and-how-visioning-works“
ABOUT BUSINESS BITES
BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Food Business Fundamentals program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.
Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Maybe you’re looking to grow the family business or scale an existing restaurant? Register for ICC’s Food Business Fundamentals course, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn more.