Operational Excellence Pyramid

Aug 23, 2022

By Alan PalmieriLeadership | Operations Consultant

Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “One picture is worth a thousand words.” We all take in information in various ways – pictures, words, experiences, etc. We include a picture of what operational excellence would look like – if it were a picture along with a narrative to explain it.

restaurant pyramid

The “pyramid” above is an image of the Sync Operational Excellence Framework. This framework is how we operational-ize all the key activities and actions to achieve excellence – for our brand, team, and customer. It is the specific way that we get it done. We build from bottom to top, achieve results, identify gaps, then address those gaps with an action plan for continuous operational improvement. Instituting a time-tested operational excellence program is the best method of achieving operational excellence.

The Foundation of Operational Excellence

In the restaurant business, success begins with a concept, a “brand,” that is uniquely differentiated, offers a compelling consumer proposition, and delivers value for the time and money spent. All that, when consistently executed over time, brings guests back again and again. They refer their friends. Your restaurant becomes “their restaurant.” It’s not just your amazing food, but the quality of their experience that makes them regulars. When you get it right, you transform them from a customer into a friend – better yet, one of the family. You’ve made them feel special.

Once we know we have a worthwhile brand, the idea is brought to life with execution at a high and consistent level. The Operational Excellence Framework is a building block way of thinking about the performance required to be wildly successful. It begins with a foundation of the “right people” that fit the brand with a positive, healthy culture brought together with mutual respect and trust—all led by an aligned management team that speaks with one voice.

Operations: Fully Staffed, Fully Trained, Fully Engaged

Once we have the right people, it is all about the right people in the right place at the right time, fully prepared to execute according to the brand’s operational standards. Being “fully staffed, fully trained, and fully engaged” (FS/FT/FE) is the only way that management and team members can consistently execute at a high operational level, meeting and exceeding customer expectations that brings them back for more. Operational excellence can only be achieved when restaurant teams are fully staffed and trained. In this environment, the teams become fully engaged in their responsibilities and genuinely provides their best discretionary effort to do the right thing for their guests, fellow team members, and the business.


trained staff

S.M.P.’s: The Backbone of Operations

Next, we move to systems, methods, and procedures. To be successful in the restaurant business requires a great deal of planning, preparation, and consistent, high-quality execution. Thorough training and strict adherence to all operating processes are essential in delivering a quality experience to the guest and effective cost management of the business. Opening and closing checklists, line checks, proper protocol to store food, order recipes, and management routines are quick examples of critical processes necessary for success. Not only do these S.M.P.’s maintain compliance, food safety standards, and consistency of customer experience across restaurants and locations, but they also enable frequent operational audits and provide immediate solutions to a variety of problems facing your daily operations. You can think of each one as a mini operational excellence assessment. Most of what you need for day-to-day operations is covered in the Management Coursework found in the toolbox of our online course.

S.M.A.R.T. Action Plans: Time to Shine

Even the most successful operations have performance opportunities, and they need to be addressed swiftly and effectively. It is not about working harder; it is about this:

“Have a plan and work the plan.” This motto has served as a successful “guiding light mantra” necessary to be successful. Suppose you are working “without a plan” – who knows where you will go and where you will end up – usually not in a good place. Working hard alone doesn’t usually get the right things done.

That is where S.M.A.R.T. action plans come into play in the next level of the structure. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound = S.M.A.R.T. It is a process of identifying the top priority performance gaps and building an action plan to solve them. Effectively doing this with each priority gap strengthens the team and improves results – making the customer experience the best it can possibly be.

The Peak and The Support: Achieving Operational Excellence

All these critical operational layers come together and peak with success for all stakeholders involved. The lines covering the exterior of the structure refer to support.

Recognition at the bottom of the operational framework is there as a reminder that it is critically important to recognize, praise, and appreciate those that contribute to the restaurant’s success. This recognition includes letting them know that what they do matters and makes a difference. Both formal, as well as spontaneous informal recognition, are equally important. You can’t give enough good feedback, so have fun doing so! Catch people doing something right and reward them. Positive reinforcement is the best motivational tool; An added bonus of it is that operational compliance will tend to take care of itself as your people will make sure they get it right the first time.


appreciate restaurant workers


Promises refer to the restaurant’s commitments to all its stakeholders; guests, team members, vendor partners, community, and investors. Living and performing true to these promises earn credibility and loyalty in all.

Accountability is key to creating a high-performance team and the consistent delivery of operational excellence. But remember, you can’t hold people accountable for skills, processes, or procedures that you haven’t taken the time to teach them properly or given them the tools to execute.

As you take in the operational excellence framework in totality, think of the recognition, promise-keeping, and accountability as the “glue” that holds it all together.

The “cloud” represents the established brand’s culture, values, and beliefs along with the fundamental financial and operational basics. The operational excellence framework is anchored in the brand’s promises to all its stakeholders. As the brand has established the “what” and “why” for its existence, the framework is the “how to.”

In closing, our intent to share this operational model for success is our deep commitment for you to enjoy the benefits of consistently executing your brand at a high level. Sustaining peak operational efficiency across restaurants is a mighty task. We would be humbled for the opportunity to help you achieve wild success in your journey. Let us help your restaurants improve operational excellence and deliver the best possible customer experience (and food, too!). Please feel free to reach out to us any time at