Anyone who has thought about running a restaurant or eatery for a significant amount of time has thought it will be easy. They have believed that they can loiter around all day, speak to customers dining in and maybe whipping something tasty in the kitchen every once in a while.
However, a little thing called reality shows that the hospitality and food-service industry is different — by a wide margin — contrary to popular belief. It can sometimes be a struggle to turn over tables to earn enough profit to keep afloat or be successful.
Those who know the “magic formula” are often the ones who give it a shot in the industry and they are the ones to offer these secrets in order to serve success in the restaurant business.
Location, location, location
Successful restaurant owners highlight the importance of one particular issue, which is something real estate agents also push hard on: location, location, location. The location of your restaurant within a municipality can make or break you, unless you’re exclusively a take-out operation.
It all comes down to footfall — the number of people entering an establishment at a given time. While some cafes don’t tend to offer service in the evening, high foot traffic along a street lined with shops may offer some incentive to open up and tempt potential customers to drop in.
Far too often, a restaurant focusing primarily on midday or evening service within the same locale can have a disastrous effect. If no one walks within the area in the evening with nothing to entice them, it results in people going out of their way to get to your business. It makes for low popularity, compared to another part of town where there are a higher concentration of restaurants to consider.
Customers are more likely to choose one locale and will rarely change their location after they arrived.
Matching the right spot for your business is advice that restaurateurs and insiders nearly always cite as a contributor to their success.
Interior design and decor
Successful restaurateurs note that the way they decorate and outfit their eatery has been crucial to their success. Many restaurants have made the dining experience exciting and pleasant for customers via subtle or not-so-subtle themes — think the Rainforest Cafe, for example.
Caution is advised, as it is important to remember that the interior theme should reflect your brand — and often — the type of cuisine you intend to serve. Without this, customers are likely to become confused and not know what to expect from their dining experience.
The decor needs to complement the menu and the restaurant style in order to achieve ultimate success.
The menu should be considered equally as important as all other factors described. While some aspects could end up off-kilter, if your food is great, then there is a chance of achieving success in the restaurant business.
Advice from industry insiders recommends that menus should be short, specific and changed often to keep your key customer base returning regularly to try new menu items. Menus should also be easy to read.
Vast menus that list every dish imaginable will only confuse diners and make things harder to place their orders. It may give diners the impression that the chef and kitchen staff don’t know what they’re doing and are covering their inexperience — and perhaps lack of training and incompetence — with a list of endless menu choices.
Hygiene is essential to a restaurant’s success as well, considering preparation and cooking aren’t the only activities taking place in the kitchen. Restaurant pros cite that there are particular laws regarding rotation of stock, cross-contamination and proper disposal of old food items that need particular attention.
While successful restaurateurs stand out above the crowd by embracing a proper hygienic routine, others may be lagging behind, resulting in temporary — and sometimes, permanent — closures by health department officials.
Maintaining a “clean as you go” routine during your restaurant’s business day throughout the entire restaurant — not just the kitchen — will help hold the high standards you seek to maintain for your business. This often involves a regular training schedule with occasional refresher courses on hygiene for your staff.
This will not only allow for a high score on your formal hygiene rating, which is — depending on local, state, Federal or international laws — scored quarterly, semi-annually or annually, but also increases the chances of poor hygiene within the restaurant being minimized considerably. This also allows for some savings for your business, by not having money tied up on legal fees and public relations firms to recover from bad ratings or reviews, which could crush everything you built up for your restaurant.
Successful restaurateurs know that who your choose to work for you counts as much as the food your establishment serves or the cleanliness of your building. Different roles may need to be fulfilled, depending on how it is set up. Most restaurants involve the hiring of wait staff, chefs, kitchen staff, cleaners, management and administrative personnel to handle things such as payroll and accounts payable. Other establishments which include a bar will need to hire additional staff to operate the bar, assuming staff aren’t cross-trained to handle multiple duties.
It is crucial to match the right people, commensurate with experience, with their proper roles. However, this may prove to be difficult if you’re pushing for a deadline to start business operations and can’t really see anyone on a trial basis to see if they have the experience to perform the job they applied for.
Editor’s Note: This “rudest waiter ever” is part of the theme of Ed Debevic’s in Chicago, which is in its own way a tribute to Edsel Ford Fong, known as the “world’s rudest, worst, most insulting waiter” of Sam Wo fame. The waitress in the video, Kryssie Ridolfi, aka “Cherry”, explained her newfound fame in a 2015 interview with WCIU’s You & Me This Morning, citing that the family was in on the viral video and were actually good sports about it.
Ed Debevic’s was evicted from their location in late 2015, as their location was being demolished to build skyscraper apartment complexes, but the operator of the restaurant, Bravo Restaurants Inc., cited that they will be opening up at a new location in the near future, but had not found a location as of March 2017, the last time the restaurant posted on their Facebook page.
While it may be a theme for some restaurants, mostly for the entertainment of their customers, it is not recommended behavior for your standard restaurant.
By focusing on the employment process and asking the best restaurant interview questions, you can maximize the chances of finding people that are the right fit for the duties you are requesting them to perform. This is crucial when it comes to staff who will have direct contact with customers such as waiters and servers, because their interactions define the difference between a positive or negative dining experience.
For a restaurant to succeed, there must be a thorough, hand-on recruitment process to hire the right staff. However, for the inexperienced restaurant operator, it may be helpful to leave it to an agency or third-party employment company.
In the modern marketplace, having a single revenue stream at their disposal reserved for those who buy food and drinks may result in lost opportunities, which in turn leads to lost potential revenue. There are a range of available revenue streams a restaurant can take advantage of to ensure continued business success and earn additional revenue — something prominent chain restaurants like Red Lobster, Wendy’s and Perkins have already realized.
One of these options to add additional revenue streams if offering take-away service during operating hours. Depending on your available staff and how busy your business is, you can appoint them to deliver the orders to customers. If that is not an option, you can become a restaurant partner for GrubHub, UberEats, DoorDash, Seamless, Postmates, Eat 24 and Mr. Delivery among many other food delivery platforms. (Available markets may vary.) This allows for your restaurant to focus on making the food to order and allow for additional dishes to order for delivery.
Some of the smartest restaurants like Wagamamas and Famous Dave’s have discovered other ways to drive additional revenue like selling a wide range of branded products online as well as in the restaurant itself. Running a business with a strong brand identity appeals not only to your customer’s taste buds, but also to the lifestyle they aspire to live.
While not as glamorous compared to the previously mentioned factors, successful restaurants and their owners understand that providing the correct equipment for staff to perform their duties. Equipment is the key foundation the restaurant (and ownership group) is based on.
Without the right equipment in the kitchen or cleaning products for your server and janitorial staff, your restaurant couldn’t run effectively. The costs of such items should be factored into the prices of your menu items to create a delicate balance between supplying and maintaining the right equipment and balancing the books to achieve maximum profitability.
Restaurant veterans often look for equipment being sold second hand, usually as a result of another restaurant or an equipment vendor going out of business.
An advantage of purchasing pre-owned, second hand equipment is that it can be in excellent condition and cost a fraction of the original manufacturer suggested retail price, or MSRP. The savings can help make a difference to your bottom line and ensure the best product is available to your customers at the same time.
Following this advice from successful restaurateurs, restaurant ownership groups and industry insiders will help serve success for your eatery and allow for continued longevity of your business.
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