Running a business in the food service industry is undoubtedly a tough gig. Competition is growing and dining trends go as fast as the come. Every day, you walk a fine line; from balancing resources, work to decrease waste, schedule the right amount of staff… the list goes on.. And then there’s marketing your brand working to acquire and retain customers who increasingly demand perfectly polished plates of food that are worthy of ‘Gram. But it’s all worth it when you get it right, serving up delicious food that brings a drooling smile to their face.
We’ve been around the block, working with over 1000 top restaurants in Australia - and we’ve picked up some powerful knowledge we’d like to pass on.
Here are some of our top restaurant dos and don’ts.
1. Design a unique selling point
Make sure your cafe or restaurant offers something unique that makes it memorable and keeps people coming back. We know this might be a given, but when you’re competing against other restaurants serving the same cuisine as you in the same block, it’s good to have a show-stopper customers are following the buzz into your restaurant to get their hands on this dish. A signature dish or drink gets people in the door, a great experience after consuming it keeps them coming back for more.
2. Think about the atmosphere
Remember the last time you went to a restaurant you loved? How much of it was only because of the food? We know your food brings people in, but the ambience and environment makes people really enjoy the food. Eating is a sensory experience, and sometimes you eat with your eyes, ears, and taste buds!
Who doesn’t love a simple kiss? Keep it simple, silly. We know you want to shoot for the stars and provide the best experience possible for your customers, but sometimes when execution gets complicated in food, there’s a lot of opportunity for something to go awry. Over execute on something simple versus under executing on something that is impossible.
4. Mingle with the customers
In the restaurant business, the customer experience matters much as the food they’re eating. If the ambience is poor, the customer’s taste bud may be effected by it. Friendly mingling on the restaurant floor is a great way to check that your patrons are enjoying the food and atmosphere, while you aim to ensure everyone leaves with a full stomach and a big smile.
5. Hire Smart
Your kitchen and waitstaff are the lifeblood of your restaurant; which makes the job of hiring very important. Competence is a must, but you’ll be surprised how memorable a restaurant is based on friendly, bubbly staff. So don’t rush on it, spend time getting the right staff in and take time on the interview process. Your first staff will (help) build all the new systems, and ensure the success of the business from the start!
1. Over complicate your menu
Often restaurants believe they should offer a large variety of menu options to attract more customers - but 80% of the menu never gets ordered. This often leads to an excess of waste and issues with inventory management. If you create a menu that showcases your most popular items and keep it concise, you’d be surprised by how little the customers notice and how managing your expenses becomes just a little bit easier.
2. Ignore customer consensus
This sounds like a given but it happens. Running a restaurant is not for the weak of heart. It takes passion and drive. Sometimes we are so much in the weeds of day-to-day work running a place, we don’t watch for what isn’t working. Listen, observe, and change what isn’t working for your customers because they’re more likely to remember what isn’t, than what is working.
3. Expect customers to just come to you
Some customers will discover your restaurant by stumbling by, but most won’t. In a world where 95% of customers use digital recommendations or reference to figure out where to eat next, marketing yourself is key. Nuture a following so you have a way of engaging with your customers when they aren’t in your restaurant, to get them coming back in! Also, keep in mind, the photos you have on your website, Instagram, Google and Facebook are often the very first thing a customer will see when finding your business online. No matter how amazing your food, if you cannot provide a solid standard of photo quality (or photos at all, at that), you’re missing out on SO much. We have seen first hand how much better a restaurant does when they've got great photos circulating. Don't miss out on showing potential customers just how great you are!
4. Skimp on ingredients
It’s better to have a dish with less ingredients that is done well then something with heaps of ingredients with taste that just misses the mark. Quality ingredients make all the difference in taste. The choice to use low-quality ingredients , could be what makes the dish unmemorable for a customer and reason enough that they don’t return.
5. Stop trying to innovate
We love using data to a/b test if something is working and really believe this can be applied to restaurants. This can be by making little changes. Instead of making muffins of any and all different favors, track what gets bought the most and start supplying that flavour more often. You’d be surprise how much you didn’t know until you do the work to check on what isn’t and is working!