For the Common Good

by Katie Lee

5 obstacles to overcome for more effective retail and restaurant operations.

By Casey Rue

Behind every successful retail or restaurant business is an operations and management team whose focus is to diligently and proactively oversee its daily (orderly) operations. Yet at virtually any moment, issues can arise that require immediate and focused attention to ensure the continuity of the business and successful customer satisfaction.

A major roof leak causing product damage, a flooded parking lot blocking access, pest control issues scaring away customers or a malfunctioning HVAC system in the middle of summer can have a major impact on the image of the business and also on its bottom line. For businesses operating space, whether a retail center or freestanding, these can be the most important issues of the day — ahead of their general business operations. When these issues reach catastrophic proportions, they result in lost revenues, lost productivity and can even jeopardize the business itself.

While these teams must be adept and resourceful at handling and resolving each of these situations, and a whole litany of others, they must also be able to handle routine, daily requests and issues. And while many of these issues can be resolved internally, there are also many that require external intervention from property managers, landlords and third-party vendors.

In operating as effectively as possible — handling the highly-charged and very visible issues as well as managing the business in normal conditions — operators, property managers and landlords must first overcome a variety of obstacles. An inability to overcome these obstacles will not only hamper their ability to handle the crisis du jour, it will make it virtually impossible to establish an operational platform that will allow it to grow, expand and be profitable.

Among some of the greatest obstacles to overcome include:

  • Internal and external communication and “connectivity” issues
  • Ineffective and inconsistent operational practices
  • Not leveraging an accessible and affordable system everyone can use
  • Lack of access to the right resources
  • Redundant and inefficient operations

Let’s explore these obstacles to successful property management operations further:

  • Internal and external communication and “connectivity” issues: We live in a world where “in the moment” communication is critical, and connectivity generally couldn’t be any easier. Yet so many of us continue to rely on systems and procedures that are ineffective (voicemail, texts, emails and sticky notes…) These cause gaps in communication and not having the “right” information on hand which leads to delays in responding and can make the simplest projects take significantly longer to complete. Business operators today must be well-versed in methods, such as software, that can more easily create operational networks, increase the flow of communication, and ensure that everyone — internal as well as external audiences — is kept on the same page.
  • Ineffective and inconsistent operational practices: At the core of the most efficiently run operations are those that are leveraging systems that provide consistency and will allow them to effectively, communicate, manage and track workflow — from start to finish — on any project and at any location. With the state-of-the-art technology and work-order solutions available today, we no longer have to rely on notes scrawled on a Post-it or messages left on voicemail. Leveraging innovation and technology, enhancements in work order management systems are revolutionizing the way work is assigned and tracked in real time.
  • Not leveraging an accessible and affordable systems that everyone can use: Statistically speaking, by far and away most businesses are small to mid-sized companies. They are the life-blood of our country. Yet the vast majority of operations and management software — the Cadillacs of the industry — are targeted and priced for big businesses. Furthermore, almost all of these software systems can only be used by the company who is paying for them and not by those that don’t. Increasingly, firms are developing operations technology that specifically caters to small to mid-sized companies. They are also providing solutions that can be seamlessly used by all parties involved in work activity and are not dependent on the users being in the same company. The increasing availability of high quality, affordable software requires firms to be diligent about understanding what new advantages are available to them and their competition.
  • Lack of access to the right resources: Because of the wide variety of services that are required to effectively operate a business and/or manage a property, operators, property managers and landlords must call on a vast array of service providers — from landscapers and contractors to electricians and pest control companies, among many others. Leveraging an internal database or network of qualified talent who can be called upon in a moment’s notice to complete a routine project or provide a detailed bid on a more extensive service request is critical. While building those relationships and better understanding an individual’s capabilities can take time, we can now look to technology to help bridge the gap to build a database for instant communication and connectivity with the right resources when it is necessary.
  • Redundant and inefficient operations: One of the greatest obstacles to any business, including property/facility operations and management are redundant and inefficient operations. Based on our experiences, facility operators, property managers and even service providers can save more than 30% of their time by streamlining operations, whether that means more effective communication, easier methods for tracking work flow and faster, more concise reporting capabilities.

The roles of operators and managers are so important given that their work and effectiveness impacts so many—from the relationships and overall perception of customers, to the on-going working relationships between operators, to property managers and landlords, to attracting and retaining the best and most reliable service providers with whom they interact.

In today’s world, the ability to overcome obstacles is based in part by an individual’s own drive and determination, but largely by the tools and resources that are made available to help them take their efforts to the next level. Increasingly, but perhaps not quickly enough, firms are recognizing and identifying ways in which innovation, technologies, best practices and professional experiences can pave the way for effective solutions.

As new technologies are discovered, and solutions created, those responsible for managing retail and restaurant properties must carefully evaluate the offerings to ensure that they are helping to overcome more obstacles than they are creating.


— Casey Rue is the CEO and founder of Common Areas. Rue, a former retail shopping center developer and property manager, founded Common Areas to bring clarity to the management and maintenance process by offering tenants and operators, managers of properties and facilities, and the service businesses that maintain them (landscaping, plumbing, security, janitorial, etc.) an easy-to-use software that allows all parties to work together in one virtual space. For more information, email [email protected].

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