Every business owner or manager will arrive at a place where they have questions without answers. When that time comes, we seek help outside ourselves. This is often with friends and peers – other business owners in many cases.

But when the amount of attention and knowledge required becomes extensive, it may be time to hire a restaurant consultant or coach to bring new light and expertise to the situation.

Having worked as both a consultant and a consumer of consulting services, I have thought long and hard about the issues that are important to a successful coaching program. How can you as a restaurant owner get the information and action needed, at a fair price?

Know what you want in advance.

Having open ended and vague descriptions of what you need accomplished will take consulting time and increase cost unnecessarily. The first thing you should do before inviting a third party into a situation is taking a moment to flesh out the details of what you need. From there, spend a few moments to formulate a series of definite, concrete questions that can be answered with specific plans.

In many cases this simple process will bring answers to light that you had not thought about prior.

Simply take a few moments to remove emotions from the situation… relax… and reconsider the possibilities. We can evaluate circumstances with a fresh set of eyes.

This is what I mean ask yourself: “If I was a consultant coming into MY business, what are the first things I would talk about?”

The times you should absolutely hire a consultant is when you are asking questions and cannot think of the answers. If the answers require extensive research, you will have to decide if it is worth the time. It may be that a consultant could help you accomplish it better and faster. BUT at least you will have specific questions to ask them.

Look for consultants with specialized knowledge.

The reason is that many “restaurant consultants” are entirely clueless about topics that can increase your business and profit margins. Marketing is a great example. Technical subjects are another. Do not let a generic restaurant consultant fool you into thinking they can handle all topics equally – as mentioned, always look for real-world experience for YOUR needs.

However, if the subject is purely operational, it is a good idea to find someone who has run restaurants similar to yours AND been very successful at it.

Get a detailed written proposal.

You have your questions – ask how the consultant intends to deliver their advice, what guarantees are involved and how fees are affected.

Before hiring, CHECK THEIR ANSWERS! I have seen it more than once – someone answers questions point blank (like they know what they are talking about) but when fact-checking comes into play… well… it was all made up. It is important to make sure advice given is sound across the board, and legal.

Many consultants will fill their proposals with marketing-lingo (often senseless garbage) and attempt to push things you do not need. Avoid this. You have specific needs, get specific answers. Only allow up-sells and additions to the proposal after you consider whether it is actually needed. Do NOT decide on the spot, with the consultant in front of you.

Restaurant consultation prices.

There are basically two forms of pricing: hourly and flat-fee. Consultants with hourly fees should be avoided if your questions were difficult to formulate, or if you are unsure of specific needs. What tends to happen is they can milk the hourly fee.

I recommend offering consultants that get paid by the hour the opportunity to be paid at a flat-rate to address specific situations. If they address the situations satisfactorily, then invite them for their normal rates.

Top consultants are usually paid by the hour (some by 10 minute segments!). If you are dealing with those widely considered to be the best in their fields of knowledge, that is expected. What also comes with these types of people are satisfaction guarantees.

Gut feeling.

Many restaurant owners do not consider the chemistry factor – how they get along with the person they are about to share intimate details of their business with.

To get the most out of your coaching and consultations, it is always best to have a good gut-feeling with the person. If there is ANY sense of discomfort, or things just do not seem 100% during the introductory period, then stop. Move on.

One very important thing to consider is, would you hire the restaurant consultant to be a part of your team full-time? They are working FOR YOU, remember.

Related post: How expensive are consultants?

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