Steps to Growing Your Restaurant Business
Your restaurant is doing well, but you feel that it could be even more successful with just a few changes. You just don’t quite know where to begin the process of stimulating sales. Following are some tips and suggestions on increasing your customer counts and plate averages at your business:
Stay Abreast of New Trends
Always be in the know as to what the current trends are in food and beverage. Read trade magazines, visit other restaurants, go to grand openings, subscribe to wine periodicals, visit wineries, and make every effort to keep your offerings from becoming stale. Another great source of information is your food and beverage vendors. They can keep you updated on what the competition is ordering for their venues and show you what items and products are the most popular at any given time.
Be a trendsetter yourself and come up with a new concept, food item, or drink recipe. When the competition starts imitating you, then you know you are on the right track.
Watch the Competition
Analyze what your competitors are doing. Is it effective? Will it affect your own business? Is there something you can learn from their strategies? Just remember, what works for another establishment may not necessarily work for your venue. Thoroughly research and analyze any major changes before implementing them.
Hire the Best
Too many times a restaurant manager or owner will hire almost anyone just to have warm bodies to work. It is important to pay attention to who will be serving your customers. Background checks, drug tests, and in-depth interviews are essential to your success. The human resources department should be well trained in selecting and processing the very best candidates.
Make Training a Priority
Many companies underestimate the value of training their employees. Worry about a high payroll may cause new employees to start working the floor before they are completely trained. This is a critical issue that can make or break a business. If a server goes on the floor without knowing the ins and outs of the restaurant and the menu details, it can create a very negative impression of the dining facility as a whole. Customers who receive less than stellar service will pass on their comments to friends and family, resulting in a drop in business. The attitude that “there are plenty more customers where they came from” just doesn’t cut it anymore. In this age of social media, one comment can now reach thousands of prospective customers, and this is not to be taken lightly.
Encourage Take-Out Orders
Take-out orders are easy to do, you get full price for them without affecting your payroll to a great degree, and it can become a steady form of income during the holidays. Reserve parking spaces for those who are picking up orders. Train your staff to offer foods such as desserts to go at the end of each customer’s meal. Add special coupons to all of your take-out orders for future sales. You will be surprised at how much this can add to your bottom line.
A step above take-out is catering. This is where you assemble a specific meal for a large number of guests, either in or outside of the restaurant. If you have a large room that is separate from the common areas, this may be a perfect place to begin your catering business. Offer the room with set menus to business groups, clubs, and those seeking private facilities for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, retirement parties, and more.
Market the Restaurant
Your venue may be in a prime location, but advertising is still an essential. Keep your customers notified of specials, menu changes, and special events by emailing them all the pertinent information. Add coupons to the message to see just how effective this is. If it is in your budget, advertise with local radio stations and/or newspapers. Table tents are also an effective way of informing your customers of new specials and upcoming happenings at your location. Partner with local charities and schools for special evenings where they do the advertising in exchange for a portion of the sales for that day or evening.
It is essential to have the necessary controls in place at all times. Don’t allow any meals or drinks to leave the kitchen or bar without a ticket, install a liquor dispensing system that is matched to the inventory, and use a point of sale system to track all of the items sold. Ask your human resources department to monitor employee schedules and compare them to time clock entries to help keep payroll down.
Think Outside the Box
Keep an open mind when it comes to highlighting your restaurant. For example, if your locality is holding a Mexican fiesta, tag-team their efforts by running some Mexican specials. If the local high school football team has a game, offer teen-friendly items both before and after the event. Always stay alert to opportunities to showcase your establishment to your neighborhood – sometimes your employees will have the best suggestions.
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Always be sure that the entire restaurant is spotless. This includes restrooms, entrances, dining areas, and, of course, the kitchen. Loading dock area and dumpster gates should be closed at specific times in the morning. A negative health department report can be very detrimental to your business. No customer likes to think of their food being prepared in unsanitary conditions. Make a point of using the front entrance so you get a firsthand view of what your clientele sees as they enter the front door.
Monitor and Respond to Reviews
Online reviews are important. Read them religiously as these individuals are giving frank appraisals of your food and service. Respond positively to both good and bad entries. Thank those who point out areas of deficiency – remember, it is those who do not complain about your restaurant when they have a bad experience who are the most dangerous.
As you can see, keeping your restaurant business moving forward can be a monumental task. Following these tips and suggestions will help you stay on course and become a successful venue that customers will happily return to again and again.