Running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart; it takes endless hours of dedication, patients to deal with difficult customers, and the skill of a circus juggler to balance the needs of employees—but don't fret, we've put together these ten tips to improve your restaurant business.
- Know your market. It is important to know who you are serving. Walk around your business's neighborhood. Are you located by a big box store? Maybe a strip mall or next to public venues? Figure out what type of customers are already in the vicinity of your restaurant. Your menu should also reflect this market. Look for prices that might be too high or too low for your customers. If you are serving a burger and fries for $15 but your clientele can only afford to dish out $8, look for ways to cut cost and bring down your prices. On the other hand, if you are selling hot dogs to a crowd that just came out of the town opera, chances are you won't get too much foot traffic.
- Know your competition. Figure out who is stealing all your customers and why. Do they have better service? Better food? Take time to have a meal in each restaurant that you compete with and look for ways to improve your restaurant business.
- Service. Service. Service. Set aside time to meet with all of your staff outside of regular business hours. Ask the kitchen staff to suggest ways your servers can improve efficiency and vice-versa. Fewer trips to the kitchen means better service for your customers. Remember, if there is one thing that can easily ruin a great meal, it is poor service.
- One word—cleanliness. Look around your establishment. Take note of how clean the appearance is or is not. Most customers will assume that if you cannot keep the front of the house clean, then your kitchen is even worse. Sit down at a table for a while and watch your servers. Are they wiping down tables after each customer leaves? Did they walk by that straw wrapper without picking it up? A dirty restaurant is an easy way to lose customers. Most customers will not take time to complain but they will definitely tell their friends.
- Good food. This one should be a no-brainer. Pay particular attention to quality, freshness, and appearance. You can totally bomb on the rest of these tips, but if the food is out this world, restaurant business will improve.
- Waste management. No, we are not talking about taking out the trash. Look for ways to trim the fat and cut cost. How much are you giving out in employee meals? A freebie or just a discount? While it is important to keep the morale high, you don't want to waste unnecessary spending on employee meals. Set discounts in accordance with how many hours the staff member worked that shift. In addition, meet with your vendors and haggle for better pricing. Call their competitors and see if they can give you a better rate.
- Specials. What is your slowest night? Do the math and plan specials to help improve that night's business. Injecting new life into a slow night is an easy way to improve restaurant business.
- Catering for local businesses. Hire a local graphic design company or have one of your artistic staff members design a pamphlet for business luncheons. If your space doesn't provide for it, then offer to cater off-premise.
- Getting the word out. Even if you do not have the budget to advertise in the local paper, you should at least be advertising in-house. Keep your customers informed by setting up a bulletin board. Use a chalkboard or other signage to advertise daily specials outside the front entrance. This will help bring foot-traffic into your restaurant.
- Management. Look in your own backyard. Make sure you are effectively communicating with the staff. Try not to get too friendly with the cute waitress you just hired. Lead by example. If your staff sees you slacking, they will think it is OK too. Become that fearless general you always dreamed about being; grab a chicken leg and lead the charge to improving your restaurant business.
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