All brands have them.  That one location (or 20 or hundreds) where no matter what you do, you feel like you’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Sales are plunging so far into the red over such a long time you feel like you need a new shade of red to define how bad things really are.

But, maybe you can make a final push to save the location(s).  Before you turn the lights out, here are a handful of things that can push you back into the black (or closer to it at least).

1. Plug into data to see how bad things really are

There are so many great nuggets that can be gleaned from POS data.  In my experience, there is bound to be something that tells you what is going on at a location.  It may be menu performance and preference, it may be dayparts, it may be specific personnel.  Either way, a manual dive or an automated solution (we recommend Marketing Vitals) can get you on the path to the true issue.

2. Customer feedback

This is the part that POS data won’t be able to tell you.  Going deep into research, surveys, focus groups, and in restaurant intercepts of guests are super telling.  And, in addition to this, paying attention to what customers are saying on social is a faster path to customer feedback.  A tool like MomentFeed is a great way to automate the process of figuring out what customers are saying.

3. Take an honest look at the feedback

Check your baggage at the door.  This is no time for excuses.  A restaurant or multiple restaurants are on the line.  Take all the data and customer feedback and really own it.  Like Domino’s style ‘We suck’ own it.  Get ready to make wholesale changes.  If something is broken, it needs fixed now or you’re losing locations (and more pressing, you’re currently bleeding money).  Whether it is operations, marketing, menu, cleanliness, or anything under your control, buckle up, put on your big person pants and fix it.

4. Fix the problem

If the issue can be identified (or issues), address it and fix it.  If the problem too large to change, you may have to call it quits.  Chances are, you can do something about it though. (This is the hardest step and I have the least to say about it.  Just get at it).

5. Let the masses know you no longer suck (and keep telling them)

You’ve fixed the problem(s) or at least made reasonable improvement.  Time to turn on the marketing faucet.  Get out to your audience, tell them you’ve heard them loud and clear, and addressed your issues (name what you’ve changed – don’t hide behind queso or chorizo).

Messaging alone won’t always be enough to convince people to come back.  You may have to develop LTOs, give deals, promote reasons to come back during the visit, etc. In marketing struggling locations, your efforts must be continuous, calculated, and will go on for some time.  There isn’t a one time fix at play.

Do ANYTHING to convince people you’ve changed and deserve their money.  And, to do so, #6 is critical as well.

6. Keep your staff engaged and up to the new standards you’ve set

As discussed in #5, your marketing efforts must be constant.  Same goes with the operation and staff.  It will take full commitment to keeping the staff engaged in an ongoing fashion. Creating contests, giving added perks for awesome work, and keeping employees more satisfied are great ways to keep your hard work of fixing the problem moving down the right path.

Unpacking these 6 items is much more difficult than the few paragraphs above.  But, if you dedicate yourself and your brand to making these changes, you’ll have a better chance at getting back to black.  And, while you’re at it, you may have a new blueprint to preemptively solve struggling locations in the future (and not wait for the fire to be almost too large to tackle.).