This guy bought a restaurant with a bad reputation. Then what happened?

Kevin Sembaliuk bought a Wild Wing franchise that was nearly dead. He turned it around by focusing on customer experience.

Kevin Sembaliuk bought a Wild Wing franchise that was nearly dead. He turned it around by focusing on customer experience.

Can You Really Do a Restaurant Turnaround When Things are This Bad?

It took a lot of guts to buy the failing Wild Wing restaurant franchise in Sherwood Park, Alberta, but Kevin Sembaliuk was convinced he could manage a restaurant turnaround based on great customer experience.

Things were so bad even the Mayor said he’d never eat there.

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Things were so bad that when Sembaliuk advertised online to hire staff, the ad instantly had comments on it warning people not to go work there.

Things were so bad the health inspectors were on the verge of closing it down.

Yes, Virginia, You Can Turn it Around

It was all about “turning the guest experience” around — quickly, says Sembaliuk in today’s podcast interview.

“Anybody can put food on a plate and anybody can serve a cold beer. But when you walk in the door, what’s the experience?

He started by cleaning the place up. Literally. It was filthy. Then he got out and networked. He started sponsoring community sports teams. He hired and trained new staff, telling them, 

He focused on each of the 3Ps I talk about in PeopleShock.

  1. Promise

    He made it very clear to staff and new hires that he and his wife, Tina, had strong core values that centered around treating people well, teamwork, and providing great guest experiences. Staff who didn’t buy in couldn’t stay.

  2. People

    Not only was it crucial to treat staff well, and to listen to front line staff for their ideas, he also realized that playing an active role in the community would be key to helping convince people that the restaurant really had changed, and was worth trying.

  3. Process

    He developed and put in writing processes and checklists for everything. That way it was faster to bring new hires up to speed, and everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. (If you haven’t read it, check out Michael Gerber’s book, E-myth, about processes in small businesses.)

Kevin Sembaliuk was right: it is possible to turnaround a restaurant that is on the brink of disaster.

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