Location, Location, Location!
Location can be incredibly important. If your restaurant is situated on a high street it is usually very easy to get people in, however if you own a small place in the middle of nowhere, getting customers in can be a nightmare.
A lot of failures in the business come from picking the wrong location, maybe you’re just too far off the beaten track to the point where customers won’t want to travel all the way out to you. If you have a lot of traffic going by on foot, you’re more likely to get customers coming in regularly. If there are other restaurants in the local area this can be a good thing. Despite the fact that you will have competition from these other businesses, the area will be known for eating out which means that hungry customers will come to the area looking for a meal.
There are many things to consider when looking at your property. You’d do well to research into its history. Find out weather or not other restaurant businesses have been there before you and how successful they have been. If they’ve done well or failed badly, find out how, so that you can help your own business to survive.
You should make sure that you have contacted the local health authorities and fire departments to find out what the minimum requirements are to get your business up and running. Make sure that you have everything costed. You’ll need to find out from the local authorities what the restrictions are on trading hours if any. You’ll also need to obtain a licence to sell alcohol if you don’t have one already. You can find out more about these licenses by clicking here.
If you have customer parking, it can greatly improve your customer’s experience with you, as it’s nice to be able to park up outside the restaurant rather than travel on foot, possibly past other restaurants.
If you are located in a place which is a little off the map there are still ways you can get people to come in to your restaurant however these will usually require a bit of advertising. To find out a bit more about advertising for your restaurant, check out our blog on it here!
Know Your Menu
It can be tempting to have a menu that fits in everything a customer might ever want. After all if the customers have a lot of choice then they’re going to always be able to have something that they like, aren’t they?
One of the main issues with having a huge menu is that the sheer number of choices can tend to overwhelm the customers which gets in the way of them finding a meal that they might enjoy. Usually in these circumstances a customer will usually just pick something that they know or are comfortable with, rather than potentially finding something new that they’d love! I’m guilty of this as a consumer, I generally just order a tandoori mixed grill whenever I go to an Indian for example. I mean you get the best of everything with it! If I hadn’t been forced to try Hariyali Chicken Tikka, I’d have lived forever in the dark!
A smaller controlled menu means that you will be wasting a lot less in unused food. One trouble I’ve seen time and time again in restaurants with huge menus is that there are some perishable goods which have only got a short time period to use them in, if these items are not used or sold they can go off causing a lot of waste.
A smaller, well adapted menu will ensure that your customers will always be able to find themselves something that they will like without getting confused or giving up looking through.
Look After Your Staff!
Your staff are absolutely integral to the smooth running of your business. You are going to want staff that work hard to achieve their goals, look after the guests and take care of their needs and value their jobs with you. You’re going to need to look after them and respect them, showing them they are valuable assets to the team.
It’s important to have a good loyal staff supporting you who will respect your standards and vision for your company and share them. Challenge your staff, reward them, teach them and lead them by example, taking care to be fair with them in any and every situation. You may need to be firm with them and discipline them at times, but always bear in mind how you would want to be treated in their shoes.
You should take a look at your calendar and see if there are any special days coming up! If so you could run a Theme Night! Is it Pancake Day soon? Why not make a special menu just for Pancake Day? You’ve probably got Christmas menus which give something a little different! You can do special menus for many different occasions! You can even hire local bands or performers to try and draw in the crowds! Theme Nights have proved successful for thousands of restaurants worldwide!
You can even take advantage of a quiet evening like a Tuesday to run romantic evenings. Because fewer people come to restaurants on a Tuesday, it will be a lot less crowded and noisy and be much better for the mood!
Get Professional Photographs!
Whilst it’s easy to get a camera or to take pictures on your phone, sometimes you’ll need the level of quality that can only come from having professional photographs taken. A professional photographer will understand lighting and how to make your food look it’s best. You’ll want to get your photographer at a time when you’re closed and cook up about 20 of your dishes for them to shoot. This will be a little expensive but it will pay for itself when those photos go out to your audience. The first bite is with the eye so they say!
If You’re Not Busy – Look It!!!
Let’s say you’ve got no bookings in for the evening, and a couple come into your restaurant. You have no guarantee anyone else is going to come in that night. It’s important to appear to be busy as people like to go places where they can see there are already customers enjoying themselves. Consider seating people close to the windows so that other people can see that you have customers, as it’s more likely to bring in outside traffic.
Take Care Of Vegans And Celiacs
If you run a traditional restaurant, there might be a chance that you haven’t considered adding vegan and gluten free options. With an expanding number of vegans in the world, and not many people taking the time to cater for celiacs, it can be a good idea to explore different options for your menu that cater for people.
Try making some extra menus with vegan and gluten-free options and promote it on your social media. A lot of people are really grateful to be included. When we added gluten-free and vegan options to one of our local restaurants, we began to get big tables of vegans in and we gained a lot more regular customers, so it’s always good to think about vegans and celiacs.
Have Regular Specials
Creating regular specials will be a lot of fun for your Chefs, and a delicious looking one off might well tempt people in to try it! You might even create something that’s well worth keeping on the menu! It will allow your chefs to work on their creativity and it will give you some amazing things to share on social media. Making specials regularly will keep your menu fresh and interesting and keep customers coming!
Quality Is Important
Anyone can go out for an evening and eat a cheap steak covered in monosodium glutamate and sauce and come back home feeling fine from it. Monosodium glutamate is a cheap way to increase the umami of the flavour. There is a great advantage to using this technique and others which increase the flavour of poorer qualities of food, which is why a lot of restaurants and food companies use them. We don’t recommend that you cheap out on quality though!
What will make your restaurant stand out if you take pride in your work and provide a high quality of service and food. Good waiters are incredible for not only making sure your customers have a great experience but for making sure you sell more food to them. For more information on them check out our example here!
Your food quality is also important. A higher grade of meat quality will usually have a much superior degree of natural flavour than a lower grade. There is a big difference in A5 Wagyu beef than in the steak that you get at your local Tescos or Co-Op. Whilst you may be lucky to pick out some nice marbling in the meat, you will never get anything close in your local. Your local butcher would be an excellent place to go to get hold of a superior grade of meat. You may well have to pay a little more for it, but the taste will be worth it and it will keep customers coming back. Good quality meat will require less seasoning and generally will not need too much work to improve the flavour.
Saving and storing food too long is bad because this food will inevitably go out of date. There are some restaurants which store food to save money which can lead to issues which I will go into later. You want to make sure that your food is always fresh. If you have food that is going to go out of date soon, you can put up deals on the dishes containing these products before they become an issue.
Listen to your customers if they have a complaint about certain parts of your service. Whilst you may not agree with everything that they are saying there may be things to do that can improve the quality of experience for people.
Comfortable tables and chairs are also important as the customer will be spending the majority of their time in your restaurant sitting down. They will have a lot of things to talk about and they might take a while to finish. They will want to enjoy their experience and comfortable tables and chairs will help them.
Bathrooms should be kept at a good level of cleanliness and a good grade of hand soaps, we recommend something scented like lavender as it will be memorable, and good quality toilet roll should be supplied. Higher quality will make the people who use the bathrooms happier than an experience with cheap paper the consistency of sandpaper and cheap sticky hand soap. You can have the best chefs in the world, great food and service but if the bathrooms suck, people will remember that one bad thing.
Making sure that everything is a high grade of quality can seem like an unnecessary expense, however it will put you above the restaurants that don’t bother taking care of their customers, increase your customer’s chances of having a good time and returning. A full restaurant that costs a little more to run will make more than a cheap restaurant that has no customers in.
Cut Costs In The Right Places
A lot of businesses cut costs in all the wrong places when it comes to running their restaurants. They cut back on the quality of the food they bring in and resort to using previously frozen and out of date food. Whilst I thought this was only a thing of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, I was shocked to find out how many places this happens at.
These businesses all claimed to be using fresh food in their food production but they were using out of date chicken that both smelled and looked off, and dousing it in sauces and marinades to cover it up – which really opened my eyes to a big problem.
If you’re using out of date food, you’re making your customers ill. If you know you are purposefully using out of date food, you’re taking huge risks and possibly hurting your customers. In some cases you might be putting their lives in danger. You want your customer to have a nice time, come back and order off you, rather than leave and tell their friends and family they’re never eating with you again – or worse, suing you.
One of the businesses I worked with was struggling financially. They had some big pizza ovens. These pizza ovens eat lots and lots of electricity. I’d go in on a Tuesday when they weren’t getting a lot of people in, most of which would come in around 7-8 pm, and past 8 they weren’t generally getting pizzas ordered. Just one or two here and there. If you have equipment that’s expensive to run, consider turning it off during off-peak times.
It became a good practise to turn off the pizza ovens after 8pm, which saved the restaurant money on electricity. When people came in for food after 8, they were generally happy to try something else off the menu, which saved quite a bit of money.
There are some other ways you can decrease costs without lowering quality. You can reduce your inventory levels slightly. It’s a common thing for restaurants to have more food in than they actually need. By reducing your inventory a little you will reduce your overall food waste.
Some Other Ways To Save Money!
You’ll want to avoid taking deliveries at times when the restaurant is too busy to handle them. If your staff are busy they might not be able to take the time to make sure the delivery has all the items you ordered. Take care to make a note of what you have originally ordered and make sure you aren’t being ripped off. If mistakes happen they are unlikely to be in your favour. If you are ordering by weight make sure that you are weighing with a scale so that people don’t take advantage of you. You’ll want to make sure your scales are calibrated regularly in the case they’re knocked around and provide inaccurate results.
Equipment malfunctions are not uncommon in restaurants, nor do they happen regularly, you’ll want to make sure someone comes along every now and then to check up on your equipment and make sure that it’s in proper working order! This can save you from things going wrong at inopportune times!
Buy only the items that you need to run the restaurant. Overbuying can be a real problem when it comes to making sure you’re running the restaurant efficiently and can lead to waste and over portioning.
You can do a daily inventory of the key items you sell. What you have to do is identify the top 10-15 products which are making up the bulk of your food costs. If you count and record the number of these products at the beginning of the shift. At the end of the shift do another inventory and compare the number missing to the number of items sold which featured these products. If there are anomalies in the numbers, there could be issues with over-portioning or theft.
Keep an eye on people who are working for your business, and people who work for you who don’t directly work for your company. It’s never a good idea to let drivers and maintenance teams into your business without supervision. They could be helping themselves to your products.
The Most Important Thing Of All!
Keep working at it! Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any successful business. There will always be problems here and there, and sometimes they will be out of your control. There will be days when you will have unruly customers, equipment malfunctions, staff pinching money from tills, and general issues cropping up outside your control like roads being closed off, water leaks etc. The important thing is to keep a cool head and keep working at it! As long as you provide good quality, service and you don’t cheap out on your customers to try and save money you will be on the right track!
This guide is by no means a complete guide on how to run your restaurant efficiently, it’s a few tips and ideas of what you should consider when looking at your business, we hope that it’s been helpful and that it has helped provide some ideas on how you can improve your business and services!
I’m a social media marketing specialist based in Wivenhoe, the CEO of Fantasoft and wannabe space adventurer.