Survival in the Food Biz: 3 Keys to Leading Well


leader [ lee-der ]

“Anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.”
– Brene Brown

The food business is one of the toughest industries in Vancouver to survive in. It’s much more about passion and heart, than profit. In order to balance out the overflow of the toll it takes out of our mental, emotional, and physical capacity, we all need to remember to regularly fill our tanks.

I’ve learned some hard lessons in 2018 and would like to share them with you.

Here are my TOP THREE:

  1. Having healthy regular rhythms of rest and work is crucial. Protecting this helps you give your best to your customers. It also allows you to think clearly and more creatively. Who you are is more important that what you do, and has a larger and longer impact on your customers and those you influence. After experiencing burnout from running three different businesses on the side of managing a cafe, hosting cooking classes, and travelling for work, my biggest lesson in the last month has been to practice the discipline of learning how to rest and incorporate spiritual practices back into my routine.
  2. Make your business sustainable by learning to delegate. Set up systems and structures and invest in empowering your team members so that the business can still function without you there. The best leaders are the ones that, when they are absent, the team still runs effectively. I’ve seen many business owners lose sight of their vision and run themselves down because of the mistake of doing too much on their own, out of desperation to generate more revenue. Without strategic careful planning and the ability to think sharp, you can easily run into brick walls and make very costly mistakes.
  3. Focus and specialize. Less is better than more. Focus on what you do best. In the last month of 2018, I was in the process of starting my own catering and food truck business. While it was extremely tempting for me to choose all 15 of the best-selling items for the menu, I knew that we can focus and specialize if we were to trim down as much as possible. Six items was my sweet spot, with 1-2 select from appetizers, entrees, to desserts. Perhaps a rotating seasonal menu on the side to introduce the bonus items, but no more than six items. Sometimes, too many choices can be overwhelming and turn your customers away. Think about the most successful food business you know, and notice how many products they offer. As hard as it is to choose just one, make it your goal to specialize.

After consulting with numerous food businesses and growing up in one myself, I’ve made numerous mistakes and had to keep humbling myself to remember each of these points. Personally, #3 is the most challenging for me because it’s so tempting to always want to do more! Which one do you resonate most with as an area of growth for you this year? 

Fellow food biz founder, I hope these tips can serve you as you navigate your business journey.