I’ll bet money that you have bought into the stereotypes about restaurant owners. And I bet you’re overworked, underpaid, and stressed out because of it.

These ten commandments will help you focus, increase your income, and give you more free time away from your restaurant doing what you love. How does that sound?

So, if I asked you- What is the one marketing promotion I should be doing in my restaurant?

1. Never, ever cheat your customers.

They will know, they will remember. Charge a fair price; charge what your experience and food are worth to make a profit. But don’t overcharge. If you promise something, deliver on it or make it right. Don’t cut costs on imitation ingredients and market it as something else. It will come back to bite you. Under promise and over-deliver.

2. The customer isn’t always right.

But make them feel like they are. One of the benefits of having a loyalty program and a customer list is that you can fire a customer. I don’t mean telling them you never come back; you just stop marketing to them. Stop communicating with them. And they’ll forget about you.

3. Not all customers are created equal.

That’s another great benefit of having a customer list or software that tracks customer demographics and spending. When you know the facts, you’ll be surprised at who your top customers are, and they need to be treated differently than the person who comes in once a month. They’re just not equal. Your staff needs to know who they are, by name and face, because you want to keep them happy.

4. Never make it personal when it should be business.

This relates more to your employees. When you manage so many employees, you start to develop relationships. Keep your social life and friends separate. Draw the line between business and personal; you will be much happier.

When you terminate an employee, correct an employee, or bring them in for a sit-down, whatever it is, you never want it to be personal. Refer to your written policy for uniforms, decorum, expectations, and code of conduct. Offer solutions to help you correct, retrain, and guide. Never make it personal. Always keep it about business. You’ll keep yourself out of trouble.

5. Treat your employees with respect, kindness, and gratitude.

You probably spend more time with your employees than with your family. You want to treat them equally regarding coaching, training, and reprimanding – with respect, kindness, and fairness. Celebrate when they do well, reward them often, and praise them highly. Recognize good behavior and good performance in front of the peer group. Train your managers to do the same.

6. Pay yourself first.

You work harder than anyone else. Why are you waiting to get paid? So many independent restaurant owners can’t remember the last time they cashed a paycheck. If you go down, the ship goes down. Do you need to cut costs? Do you need to have better systems in place? Do you need to do more marketing and bring in new customers during your slow times? Do you need to outsource? Do not sacrifice your life for
your restaurant.

7. Take at least one day off a week.

Everyone will thank you for it. If you don’t, it’s not good for you, it’s not good for your health, it’s not good for your family, and it’s not good for your staff. You get really cranky.

You’re probably thinking, “If I’m not there, the whole place is going to burn down, fall apart, they’re going to piss off my best customer, I’m going to lose a bunch of money, they’re stealing me blind.”


You need to have a life and be happy. You need to take a day off. Shut the phone off. Create systems. They’ll figure it out. You’ll be surprised at how many people will rise to the challenge.

8. Don’t miss out on the major holidays with your family.

Create alternative ways to celebrate with them. Invite your family to the restaurant to celebrate Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter. If you are going to be there, incorporate your family.

Alternatively, celebrate the day before or the day after. Don’t miss out on family time because you are a restaurant owner, or you’ll miss out on the people closest to you.

9. Your restaurant is a vehicle that provides the means to support the lifestyle you deserve.

Here’s a simple success formula. How much do you want to put in your pocket each year? Let’s say $100,000. Divide that by 52 weeks and then by 40 hours a week. That’ll give you your hourly rate.

(We’re making generalizations here) $100,000 / 52 weeks / 40 hours per week = $48/ hour. Then ask yourself, if I’m bussing tables, is that worth $48/ hour? Does it get me towards my goal? Is this restaurant the vehicle to create the lifestyle I want and deserve for myself and my family? If you switch your thinking about your restaurant as a vehicle instead of your ball and chain, you’ll start treating it differently.

10. You are a marketer of memorable dining experiences.

When asked what they do, most restaurant owners say, I’m a burger flipper. I’m a pizza maker. I run the asylum. There are all kinds of creative answers. But if you want that $100,000 lifestyle, you must consider promoting your restaurant and increasing sales. Those are the things that will make you more money.
If you’re not creating a memorable dining experience, why are you in business? If people just wanted food, then the only restaurant would be McDonald’s. You don’t have a food factory.

All these commandments are about a mental shift. Treat your restaurant like a means to an end, based on system, sales, and competent staff to get you the lifestyle you want and deserve.

If you need help turning your restaurant into a profit machine that supports the lifestyle you deserve, jump on a quick DFY Strategy Marketing Session with a DFY Restaurant Marketing Expert. The first ones are FREE—a $297 value. Let us identify your gaps in getting more new customers and filling those empty seats.

Michael Thibault

Known as “The Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.