The restaurant business can be tough. The fact is that even the hardest-working, most financially savvy and innovative restaurant owners often fail. In this era of vicious competition and multimedia marketing, it is obvious that there is a lot more to running an eatery than just showing up. One of your best strategies is to learn about some of the common mistakes that other food establishment owners have made so that you can avoid a similar fate.
There are all kinds of reasons for choosing the spot where you will be serving customers. Often, finances are one of the biggest determiners of where you set up shop. Unfortunately, the property that costs less might be tucked away in a leafy suburban neighborhood far from your target demographic. Parking could be next to impossible to find, the neighborhood could be crime-ridden and not conducive to walk-in traffic. The scenarios are endless. Therefore, be sure to embrace the secret that realtors have known for years: location, location, location.
Failure to use a multi-pronged marketing strategy.
That being said, even a premium setting will yield next to nothing if customers don’t know who you are and what makes your restaurant different from all the rest. That’s where a vibrant, dynamic marketing campaign comes in. These days, advertising your brand is even more important (and easier) than ever.
That’s all well and good, you might be saying, but how can you possibly find the time? If you and your staff are already swamped with work and overextended, it is definitely worth your while to hire a marketing team who can put together a package that should include the following components:
- An easy-to-use, updated website that is mobile-friendly.
- Customer relationship tools such as loyalty programs and occasional emails that will entice past patrons to visit again and bring their friends and family.
- An active social media presence on the most popular pages that includes input from you and encourages customers to submit testimonials and photos of your food offerings.
Once diners know where you are and why spending their time and money in your eatery is an appealing and appetizing proposition, you’ll be far more likely to attract regular customers.
Let’s face it, many people don’t enjoy bookkeeping and paperwork. In spite of their good intentions, they put off attending to these most vital tasks of restaurant management, telling themselves that they will be sure to set a large block of time to get everything back up to speed tomorrow or next week. Although these self-imposed deadlines never come, bills always show up on time, and so does the IRS.
This is where your restaurant payment processing system can become your knight in shining armor. As long as it is reasonably modern, your point-of-sale solution should contain many built-in tools that can streamline and automate tasks such as inventory management, payroll, and staff scheduling. It even can allow you to generate reports at the touch of a button that can help you to see sales trends and respond accordingly. For instance, if you learn that orders for your grilled cheese BLT have dropped drastically over the past year, you might consider figuring out why, upgrading the product, or removing it from your menu altogether. The bottom line is that your restaurant payment processing hardware and software can be indispensable tools for important duties, including: tracking products and food costs, understanding menu trends, and ensuring that your staff is paid fairly and on time. These aspects of restaurant management are as important as maintaining a stellar menu and providing exceptional service.
A lack of good managers.
Although it may well feel as if you are being pulled in infinite directions every day, the reality is that you cannot be in every place at once. Having competent, proactive managers is vital if you want to retain your sanity and run a lasting, business that excels.
Look for managers with qualities, including:
- A commitment to implementing your thorough training program.
- Paying attention to staff feedback and addressing issues as they arise.
- Making scheduling and staff shift management a priority.
- Addressing customer complaints effectively and in a timely fashion.
- The ability to keep their fingers on the pulse of administrative and business activities.
Never forget that your managers are the human face of your restaurant. Choose them wisely, treat them well, and you will be rewarded many times over.
Ignoring customer reviews.
Like it or not, the internet and social media are here to stay. Customers are bound to take pictures of your food and spout off about bad experiences. They will also inevitably post about foods and experiences they enjoy. Instead of hoping that bad feedback will go away and ignoring positive reactions, take control of customer interviews as much as you can.
Although it is undeniable that some posts are planted by unscrupulous competitors, there will inevitably be times when your customers become disgruntled and say so on social media. Use this as an opportunity to do all you can to resolve the situation — even if you suspect that you and your staff did nothing wrong. That customer, as well as countless other online viewers, will notice your integrity and your effort.
The truth is that there are times when you can use what you learn in disparaging comments to your advantage. If several guests have complained that your egg rolls are flavorless, maybe it’s time to spice them up a bit. At the same time, encourage positive reviews by rewarding customers who post them. These people can be some of your best brand ambassadors.
A mediocre guest experience.
Unless yours is the only eatery in town, odds are that you need to step up your game in order to keep regulars and new customers walking through your doors. Over time, many restaurant owners can become tired and worn down. This leads to the slow but inevitable decline that comes when food establishments cut corners. Beware of falling into the following traps:
- Buying low-quality grades of meat and other food items that may save money but leave customers unsatisfied.
- Compromising on cleanliness.
- Being slow to serve or deliver food.
- Offering an apathetic or unwelcoming guest experience.
The reality is that if patrons don’t get good food and a friendly atmosphere at your establishment, they are highly likely to find them elsewhere.
Not embracing technology.
It’s easy to scoff at things that intimidate us and technology is the perfect example. However, restaurateurs do not have this luxury. Even if you flip your burgers in a one-horse town, it is in your best interest to embrace the trends that are sweeping through the restaurant industry. They include marketing via social media, online ordering, and delivery just to name a few.
Incorporating them into your business model can be a win-win for you and your customers alike. Younger potential patrons will recognize that yours is a dynamic, customer-centered business that is not afraid to adapt with the times. As a result, you will benefit from the increased business these patrons will generate.
You have put far too much time, money and effort into your restaurant to stand by and watch it languish and die. With attention to detail, savvy marketing, and customer-centered practices, you can maximize your chances of surviving in today’s cutthroat restaurant environment.