Staying Competitive in the Restaurant Industry

by Danielle Bloom

4 min read

You have likely heard rumors about the high failure rate in the restaurant industry, but in reality, some of the stats are overstated. Restaurants have relatively the same rates of success as other small businesses. Still, around 60% of restaurants close their doors within their first three years. What this statistic shows is that you have to fight hard to stay competitive.

Invest in Your Chef

If you’re a chef-owner, it’s important to make sure you hire a quality team that can handle the kitchen on your days off. You don’t want the food standards to drop when you’re out of the building. Depending on your budget, you may want to hire experienced sous chefs and line chefs, or you may want to opt for beginners who are eager to learn and work hard. In contrast, if you’re not a chef, you should invest in a quality chef. Ideally, you want someone with name recognition in the community. Even if that’s not possible, you need a professional who can craft a great menu. When interviewing, ask for sample menus and consider requiring a stage, so you can see the chef in action.

Focus

From fast-food joints to coffee shops to upscale bistros, the most successful restaurants tend to have a focus; to be competitive, you need one as well. Your focus could be prix fixe menus with select offerings, local fare cooked in classic French styles, or all-you-can-eat buffets. Regardless of the approach you take, a clear vision can help to attract clientele.

Plan Special Events

In addition to regular service, plan special events, such as wine dinners or holiday celebrations. For example, consider hosting a Valentine’s dinner with a menu for two and a free bottle of wine – or host an anti-Valentine’s Day dinner with great deals for groups of friends or cocktail discounts for singles at the bar. A special event draws in new people. If you host the signup on social media, diners may share the post, drawing even more attention to the event. Most importantly, a special event essentially creates a deadline. Rather than putting off eating at your restaurant, diners have to be there by a certain date to enjoy the festivities, and deadlines like that can be an extremely effective sales and marketing tool.

Use Collaborative Marketing

Working with local companies is a great way to get your name in front of the their clients. For example, if you host a wine or beer dinner with a local vineyard, brewery, or even a liquor store, it can advertise the event to its customers in its locations or through mailing lists. Similarly, if you host a charity dinner, your restaurant gets exposure to the charity’s donors. The same collaborative effect can work with local farmers, co-ops, photographers, and many others.

Leverage Technology

Tasty food, great customer service, and a compelling ambiance are only half the battle. You also have to run the business aspect of your restaurant. To streamline that process so that you can focus on what really matters, consider looking into apps designed specifically for restaurateurs. In particular, you may want to consider accounting software that syncs with your point-of-sale software, lets you access numbers remotely, and integrates scheduling and payroll tools.

Check Out the Competition

To be competitive, you need to know who you’re competing with. Know what the other restaurants in your neighbourhood or niche are doing in terms of marketing, menu options, and customer service techniques. When new restaurants pop up, book a table and see what’s happening inside.

Market Online

Almost all your customers search for you online before they ever set foot in your establishment. Ideally, you need a website with all the relevant information about location, opening times, special events, and menus, and it should be mobile optimized for diners on their phones. Additionally, it’s important to monitor your online reputation. Google your restaurant often and respond to negative online reviews. Urge diners to post positive reviews about you on Yelp or similar sites, and invite local food bloggers to your establishment to get coverage.

Do Scenario Analysis

Finally, make sure that you are prepared for anything by engaging in regular scenario analysis. What happens if your supplier doubles the price of a popular cut of beef? What if revenues drop? What if the walk-in cooler breaks down? Ideally, you should think about potential risks and create response plans so that you are ready to deal with anything that comes along. Running a restaurant can be extremely challenging, but with contingency plans, lots of ingenuity, and great chefs, you can handle anything. In addition to these ideas, you may want to consider finding a mentor, especially if you’re new to the industry, or you may want to talk with a business development coach.

References & Resources

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