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Lessons learned from the Worldcup!

Every 4 years, the World Cup, one of the most anticipated sport events around the Globe (minus the US) takes place. Over one billion people tuned in worldwide to watch the final game of the 2014 competition, making the World Cup the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Summer Olympics! So while the whole world seems to take a break this June to tune in and watch the games, we took that opportunity to learn from it. These are the lessons learned and applied to the restaurant industry:

1 - Structures and Processes Outweigh Talent:

Other than some very rare exceptions, most World Cup teams do not win because of a single talent. This year, Portugal and Argentina, despite their star players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, did not manage to go very far in the competition. Instead, it is the team that is the most organized, where players are playing their strengths and with clear systems and structure that wins the World Cup.


As a restaurant owner, you know that all too well. A star chef can’t make up for poor service and vice-versa. And an all-around A-team won’t be much help if the restaurant processes are not well-defined and executed. Rally your team to become a well-oiled machine and play to each and everyone strengths.

2 - Pressure is Part of the Game – Learn to Manage it:

Pressure to succeed is the essence of the World Cup. As only one team out of the 32 will emerge the winner, there will be significant pressure on the other 31 managers.


Interestingly, it is somewhat similar in the restaurant industry. Restaurant managers share this common task with soccer coaches: managing pressure for them and for their team. So, what can we learn from successful coaches in the World Cup on “managing pressure”? Here are some quick tips:
Stay focused – do not let external pressure detract you from your goals. Many football managers (and players) do not bother to read newspapers as it stresses them.
Bust that stress – take steps daily to “de-stress” by engaging “letting off steam” rituals for you and your team. All soccer coaches swear by rituals which help them de-stress.
Be positive – the best coaches in the world know how to alleviate doubt and worry. In this World Cup, we saw how many managers smile when their team makes mistakes. Some use humor to absorb the pressure and turn it into positive energy. The best leaders do the same.

3 - Flexibility Matters

Just when you think you have a full team, injury or suspensions will hit. Even bad calls from the referee against your team can cause derailment. This requires players and coaches to be flexible and focused. The same happens in your restaurant.

There are constant changes to deal with in your restaurant such as chef changes, miscommunications and employee turnover. Are you flexible enough to change and adapt in a snap? Great restaurant managers adapt seamlessly and always have a contingency plan when things don't pan out as expected. Do you?

4 - You Can Still Win When You Don’t Give Up

In their last match before bowing out, the US faced the mighty Belgium. Howard made 16 saves in that match, the highest in a World Cup match since 1966, and single-handedly kept the US in the game. At the end of the day, he played for the losing side yet he was declared a winner.


So, how do you win when you lose?
You win when people see authenticity – Howard was authentic in his play. He never allowed his will to win waver.
You win when you give your best – Howard played his best, giving everything he could muster. Becoming a role model and inspiration for his teammates.
You win when you fight to the very end – it could have been easy for Howard to give up when the odds were against him. But he continued to fight to the very end with the hope of victory.
You win when your performance is world-class – despite defeat, he played world-class football throughout the games. For you to keep winning even when you are losing, make sure you perform at world-class level. Give up and all chances of success will vanish. Persevere and eventually, your hard work will pay off.

5 - There is No “I” in Team

An Individual will never win you the World Cup. You need a team to win the tournament. You need a decent keeper, reliable sweepers, sturdy defenders, strong midfielders, exciting wingers and talented strikers. Every role is crucial in the team.

The same is true in your restaurant. Regardless of how you look at it, everyone counts. The host whose role is to answer calls and welcome your guests, for example, is crucial. If he or she does not professionally handle incoming guests, dinners may get annoyed and decide to go to another restaurant down the street.

Regardless of how great your restaurant is, having one part of the team malfunction can cause defeat across the board. To truly win, you need a team – a team who works together, with each other and for each other.

6 - Never Believe the Doubters

A few months before the Mexico 1986 World Cup, every naysayer was predicting doom. Stadiums were not ready, and the World Cup was bound to be a disaster. Mexico was even hit by an earthquake prior to the World Cup. But, at the end of that year’s World Cup, many heralded it as one of the best ever.

Similarly, everything seemed wrong with Brazil prior to the World Cup. Even the Brazilian President was under severe criticism. Yet, the tournament has been said to be one of the best; as good as or better than Mexico 1986.


Many times, employees will come up to you and paint morbid pictures of disasters. Most of them are usually small issues. If you start believing all these doubters, you would go crazy and lose focus on what is key.

How many times have we listened to negative feedback and started to wander away from our goals? How we respond to these doubters will determine our success. As we saw in Brazil (and FIFA’s decision to stick to their plan in both Brazil and Mexico), great things can happen from supposid “disasters”.

7 - Use New Technologies to Improve Your Operations

When FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced that video technology would be used at the World Cup, it drew mixed reactions from various quarters. "We can’t imagine a World Cup in 2018 being decided by a referee’s error," said Infantino.

Video Assisted Referring

Some saw it as a way to eliminate human error made by referees. Others argued that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) would reduce the quality of soccer due to the constant stoppages.

However, the technology has proven to be an asset so far in match officiating. The VAR system has correctly overruled earlier decisions by the referee or given them a crystal clear look on incidents they might have missed.

In short, don’t shy away from new technology. POS systems, reservations management systems, inventory systems keep improving and are game changers for our industry. Be curious, try them and find out how they can take your restaurant operations to the next level.

And now, until 2022...


by Marylise Fabro

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