Spanning across diverse cultures and many nations, food is a universal source of joy and comfort. Who doesn’t appreciate a good meal? No wonder the food business is one of the biggest in the world. And that makes investing in the catering and hospitality industry a lucrative venture.
However, in such a hot market, competition is fierce. With everyone bringing their A-game onboard, how does a restaurant owner make sure their business is competitive?
After all, it all boils down to which restaurant serves the best food at the best price and at the best location possible. Creativity and resourcefulness are key to making a restaurant business stand out from the crowd as the best.
A well thought out business plan is essential for success in such a competitive industry. Set the benchmark in the catering industry by taking care of the basic things that customers notice; quality food, presentable staff, sparkling clean washrooms, meticulous floor care, and the quality of linen among other factors.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. ALSCO has put together an excellent list of great ideas that will help when starting up and managing a sustainable restaurant business.
Create the Perfect Ambience
- Find the Right Spot for Your Restaurant
For your restaurant business to succeed, you must first choose a strategic location. Be sure to look out for the following factors for an ideal restaurant establishment:
- Ample parking
- Safety / Crime rates
- Future growth
- Health regulations and Zoning
- Space size
“Place is usually thought of as how the end user accesses the product, including concerns over the businesses geographic location,” said Joel Payne of Business Relocations Ltd. “If your business sells products directly to customers, is a service industry or you regularly entertain clients on site, then it’s clear that being in the right location is essential.”
As it turns out, a good location for your business might be the most important starting factor to the success of your business. Of course, you’ll need other to meet other factors but opening your restaurant at the right spot will get you one step ahead in the right direction.
- Plan for Furnishings and Design
Michael Shen, restaurant reviewer and food photographer of ImStillHungry shares that service and décor are important factors in your customers’ minds. While both come second to food quality, it’s these two aspects that can really seal the deal when it comes to making a memorable experience.
Fit Outs and Buying Equipment: Before you plan your kitchen and the equipment that you require to fit it out, make sure you have a design and cost analysis of your menu and the style of food you’re offering.
- Get Instagram-Worthy Tableware and Table Linens
For a fact, customers love sharing their food on social media, thus an excellent food presentation, creative napkin and serviette foldings, and fantastic centrepieces are more likely to get posted on Instagram or Facebook.
Grace the table with good quality tableware, serviettes, napkins and accenting linen tableclothes to create a picture-perfect presentation of your dishes.
Aside from influencing the food tastes, nice tableware and table setting will also encourage customers to talk about you. Simply serve dishes that will excite your customers and they’ll be more than happy to share their experiences with their entire social networks.
- Manage your Space Constraints
Got limited restaurant space? It’s okay. Even an available seating space of under 10 is still a great way to cut costs on your fit out, and also on the long-term costs of running your restaurant.
Design your restaurant space to give it a stunning and welcoming atmosphere. Make up for the space constraints by offering a “takeaway” service. This will help you spend less on staff and reduce the need for table service and clean up.
Optimize Your Space: Observe and evaluate the areas of inefficiency in your space to identify where you need to make changes or renovations. Even small changes in your space can lead to a reduction in the number of staff members you need per shift without affecting the service speed or food quality.
Julia Gouye of CafeIdeas.com.au recently wrote about a concept called the “kitchen work triangle”. It combines design, functionality and efficiency, making it easier for restaurant owners to determine their kitchen layout.
Consider making your kitchen an ergonomic work area to reduce the distance and effort required for your staff to work effectively.
Put up a Service Well: This works best if you have a long bar. Having a service well on both sides will help servers get drinks easily.
Re-organize the Kitchen: Ensure that your kitchen is laid out in a way that your staff can work efficiently and even multi-task – e.g. working on the fish station and the fryer at the same time.
- Apply the Psychology of Colours
“Colours play an important role in generating a hospitable environment in cafés or restaurants,” said Niccolo Borgonovo of Protech Hospitality. “The colour that is rarely seen in cafes is blue and the reason behind that lies in its ability to distract one’s mind away from food. On the other hand, colours like orange, red and green stimulate the appetite and increase cravings. This is why the right colour combination will not only help you maximise hospitability but will also generate customer satisfaction.”
- Improve Your Lighting
According to Alexandra Morris of Morris Selvatico Interior Design, lighting is often overlooked by restaurant business owners – especially if they are on a budget.
Don’t make this mistake as it’s one of the most important elements when designing a restaurant/café.
“Lighting sets the overall mood and atmospheres so don’t leave it to the last minute,” said Morris. “Remember that less is more and this is certainly true when it comes to lighting – remember to always put lights on dimmers so that you have control over lighting levels through the day and night.”
- Get Stylish and Functional Chairs and Tables
Mary Todd of Ke-zu Furniture shares her insights on the best chairs to use in a restaurant.
- Apart from the aesthetics, make sure the chairs are functionally suitable by considering the dimensions, materials, and finishes carefully.
- When considering chairs be mindful of the design from the back. That is what you actually see in the space.
- On a practical level, chairs with a gap between seats and back allow for easier cleaning.
- Tables with central bases as opposed to legs provide greater versatility in table arrangement and allow people to get in and out of chairs with greater ease.
Maintain High Standards of Safety & Hygiene
- Power wash and Prettify Your Exteriors
A restaurant that looks clean outside gives customers a good impression of what’s inside. Keep the outside area of your restaurant clean as it’ll make a serious impact on passers-by.
The best way to get rid of dirt from walkways, pathways and exterior walls is to blast them clean with a power/pressure washer. Don’t forget to clean exterior doors and repaint them if they look worn out.
- If you have outdoor space, wisely invest in garden furniture that can endure adverse weather conditions.
- Artificial plants, flowers, and hanging baskets will also cost you less while enhancing the beauty your restaurant.
- Add patio benches or welcome planters to attract more people into your restaurant.
- Rent your Staff and Chef Uniforms to Ensure They are Clean and Hygienic
Customers notice how your staff presents themselves. Make sure your members of staff are at all times neatly dressed in smart hygienic antibacterial chef clothing and chef aprons. Well-maintained chef uniforms, chef jackets, chef pants and even custom aprons can help improve morale, self-image, performance and customer service.
A well-maintained uniform can help improve morale, self-image, performance and customer service.
- Maintain a Regular Cleaning Schedule
Make sure you’ve got a regular cleaning schedule. Also, encourage each employee to never leave their assigned station in the kitchen dirty. For best results, you might want to consider hiring Alsco’s Food and Beverage linen service to deliver clean and hygienic restaurant linen, kitchen towels and tea towels for you every single day. We understand cleaning and will get the job done right.
- Steam Clean the Cooker Hood
Grease and bacteria build up on the cooker hood over time. The best way to keep it clean and hygienic is through a steam cleaning method. Keep in mind that the wires mesh underneath should be cleaned with warm, soapy water. You can also use the same cleaning method for extractor fans that have a removable mesh. For those extraction fans that use paper filters to soak up grease and grime, the best thing to do is to clean the mesh and replace the old filter.
Don’t forget to soak and scrub all washable items with non-abrasive brushes to avoid damaging the material.
- Encourage Correct and Regular Hand Washing Method
Make regular hand washing a habit in your restaurant. Employees should understand 100 percent, the importance of keeping their hands clean and sanitised at all times.
Put up reminder posters in the kitchen on when they need to have clean hands:
- Before, after, and while preparing cooked food.
- When handling meat, uncooked eggs, seafood, and poultry.
- After they go to the toilet, sneeze, blow their nose, and touch garbage.
- After assisting someone who is sick.
- Clean the Fridge and Freezer Regularly
- Remove everything from the fridges and freezers and check each items’ date of expiry.
- Use multipurpose cleaners and wiper cloth to clean and defrost shelves where necessary using a multipurpose cleaner and damp cloth.
- Only a damp cloth is needed to wipe down the exterior of these appliances for a perfect finish.
- Keep Stockroom and Storage Organised
Regularly check your stockroom shelves to see if items have reached or are nearing their expiration dates, if containers are worn out, or have cracked lids, and broken labelling.
- Clean Surfaces and Utensils
After use, all utensils and kitchen surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned. Use hot, soapy water and disposable paper towels to clean up spills. If you’ll use cloths on other surfaces, make sure they are washed using a hot cycle on a washing machine.
- Sanitise Smaller Kitchen Items and Utensils
Consider investing in a commercial dishwasher that will help you sanitise utensils and other small kitchen items. When it comes to eliminating bacteria, high temperatures are necessary.
Polish All Stainless Steel Surfaces: Avoid damaging stainless steel exteriors by using microfiber wiping cloths when cleaning and polishing. It is best to use high-quality commercial cleaning products for a better finish.
- Adhere to HACCP Principles
Make sure that everyone in your restaurant is aware of the HACCP food safety management system principles and the practices in keeping and preparing food to prevent the growth and spreading of bacteria.
Not only will these practices help ensure that the food you serve is kept sanitary, they will also minimise the risk of spoilage and cross-contamination of food while in the storage, or during preparation and cooking.
- Cleaning Commercial Kitchen Floors
Grime and bacteria mostly build up on kitchen floors. That’s why you should make sure that all the kitchen floors are mopped regularly. While mopping the floors regularly, you might want to apply non-slip mats or wet area mats to prevent staff from slipping when moving about.
- Keep Carpets, Curtains, and Linens Clean and Stain-free
Always check your carpets, curtains, anti-slip mats and restaurant linens for obvious and unsightly wear and tear.
- Stains can be removed by high-pressure cleaning, heat and steam extraction
- Vacuum carpets regularly to keep them free of debris such as dirt and dust that could tangle in the carpet fibres
- Make sure all curtains and window dressings are properly laundered
Alsco offers managed floor mat rental services for your restaurants so you don’t get to worry about cleaning dirty kitchen mats. Mats are cleaned and maintained regularly.
From branded restaurant kitchen mats to customised welcome mats and entrance mats, ensure you make the impression you need to get results. Here are their key features:
- Are sharp and vivid with ChromaJet printing technology
- Can be branded with your logo, images, or custom safety messages
- Use revolutionary gripper patterns for better stability
- Come with the option of free, custom artwork
- Upgrade Your ‘Mat Game’
As a basic necessity, floor mats, like front door mats, play huge and important roles in every restaurant. Invest in non-slip mats or wet area mats that prevent your staff from slipping, prevent outside dirt from getting inside the restaurant when customers come in, or install anti-fatigue mats that relieve weariness and exhaustion for staff who need to stand for long periods.
Maybe even get personalised welcome mats or entrance mats that will promote your restaurant better or one that sends a personalised message!
Check out your benefits for upgrading your mat game:
- Affordable – Charged annually (from the equivalent of $1 a day),
- Time-efficient – With bi-weekly pickups and drop-offs, save time managing the care of your floors.
- Presentable – Regularly delivered spotless, industrially-laundered floor mats straight to your workplace – no exceptions
- Safe – From high-grip anti-slip mats, anti-fatigue mats to dust-control mats, the floorcare service helps keep your workplace hygienic and accident-free – and the people in it healthy and happy
Alsco’s Anti-Fatigue mats are designed to offer your people the utmost in comfort and safety.
- Consistently Clean Restrooms
Did you know that dirty bathrooms lead to lost business? And on the contrary, beautiful, fresh smelling and well-maintained washrooms positively impact a facility’s perception.
Interestingly, customers remember restaurants with clean washrooms and make a point of not forgetting those that aren’t.
Restaurant Menu Secrets
- Keep a Balanced Menu
Analyse each item on your menu to figure out your major food costs and how you can make cuts. Make sure your menu has a balance of both low and high-cost items. Adjust these to meet food cost targets. As much as possible, avoid high food cost items on slow months.
Here are some tips from HowCast on how to design a menu
How to Trim Down Your Menu
- Track Item Sales: Track the sales of every item on your menu and remove those that aren’t selling well. Use containers and ingredients efficiently to minimise food spoilage while keeping food costs under control.
- Control Portion Size: When it comes to targeted food costs, the small things add up. Portion size is one of them.
Make sure that you are portioning everything in your meals at the proper weight. This makes sure you are ordering the right quantities, keeping costs down, and reduces the need to raise prices and potentially turn your business into a really profitable one.
- Make a Delicious Menu Design
Your menu is an express reflection of your restaurant. It’s fonts, colours and layout should match your restaurant’s concept, location, and theme.
Always mention the major ingredients in each dish. If they fit, use ethnic names as they add an authentic flair to the menu description.
iChef’s Kirsty and Matthew Krueger shares the following ideas when designing a menu:
- Create something that will excite your guests, involve your regulars, it gives them some ownership.
- Use the specials board as your menu design drawing board
Another great tip for your restaurant business plan from Murray Wright of MurrayWright.com is to make sure your menus can be read and understood.
“With in-house printing, we can squeeze a lot on an A4 paper – but in the evening with lights low, and the more mature customer having forgotten their reading glasses, (or not wanting to show they need them) things get hard,” he said. “Make sure the typeface is big enough. With descriptions, be careful of technical terms – if people don’t understand, they won’t ask and just order the steak or schnitzel. Ask yourself why the term is needed – is it to genuinely inform the customer or make myself feel good?”
- Position your Menu Items Smartly
Smart positioning items on your menu can persuade your customer to buy more.
Murray Wright and Associates shares that people tend to remember the first and last items more easily when they read a list.
So make sure to put the dishes you want to sell the most (highest $ margin) first and last on the lists.
- Offer a Variety of Healthy Food Options
An emerging important factor, when it comes to a customers’ restaurant choice, is the availability of healthy food. Therefore, purpose to have a variety of healthy menu options.
Offering meals with whole grains, vegetables, and fresh seafood on your menu is a great way to impress your customers with your varied range of dishes.
You don’t necessarily have to remove items from your menu. However, you may want to consider adding low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie options such as lean meats, poultry and fish. Smaller meal portions at lower prices are also a great way to cut the calories and the costs for your clients.
Vanessa Cullen of Forward Thinking Design has some great insights to share on healthy food offerings:
“Wholefoods plant-based clean eating is in and here to stay, even with non-vegan or non-vegetarian consumers who are just seeking lighter, healthier and/or more sophisticated meals. Leading futurists forecast this as the top trend in the immediate and foreseeable future of food and it is being embraced by both the best chefs globally and small start-up ‘fast’ food companies popping up ahead of the curve.”
Cullen also shared a few examples of healthy dishes:
- A vegan veggie burger or falafel wrap with option for gluten-free bread
- Bringing in a vegan cheese option which allows you to easily convert many pizza and Mexican-style mains
- A tofu or lentil veg stir fry, hot pot, casserole or curry, etc.
- Raw vegan desserts and non-dairy based ice creams can easily be bought in from a growing range of suppliers
Having more options like these will add variety to your menu and appeal to a wider array of customers.
- Create Meaningful Menus on Special Occasions
You can put together a unique menu for special events, holidays or occasions.
This will allow you to keep control of your costs, inventory and also expand your meal selection.
- Rate Your Sold Dishes
Another great idea from iChef is to rate each of your dishes and keep a tally.
This will give you the pros and cons of their suitability for the menu.
Tips to Retain Your Customers (for Good)
- Offer FREE and Fast Wi-Fi Connection
Lately, diners hardly dine without engaging with their smartphones, tablets, or computers. Providing them with free Wi-Fi will help them conveniently use their gadgets while they eat – especially those who are waiting for important work-related emails and notifications.
And as a business, you’ll also benefit. Here is how:
- Customers spending more time on your premises and consequently more money spent on your services
- Increased foot traffic to your restaurant
- Attracts new customers
- Meet customer expectations
- Advantage over your competitors who don’t offer Wi-Fi
- Master the Art of Quick Service
Nothing irks customers more than slow service. Make sure your staff provides not only a personalised service but also quick and quality services.
- Go the Extra Mile for Single Diners
Make sure single diners don’t feel uncomfortable dining alone at your restaurant. It doesn’t cost much to try and give single diners a little more TLC. Be particularly welcoming to such customers. Also, avoid asking them if they’re waiting for someone else and never act surprised that they aren’t. This can make solo diners uncomfortable.
In Japan’s Moomin House Cafe, you’ll never dine alone. Image by CNN Travel
A good way to make them feel a little more welcome and special is by adding small thoughtful extras. For example:
- Give them a table with a view
- Never assume anything
- Set the table for one
- Make your menu flexible
- Gauge the experience they are looking for
- Make conversation-your staff to connect with them if they are up to it (but don’t go too far)
- Be Aware Of Your Business Score
Frequently check sites such as TripAdvisor or The Fork. These and other similar sites are where both satisfied and unsatisfied customers leave their feedback on restaurants they’ve previously dined in.
Being aware of your business score on these sites will help you determine whether your prices match the quality of service you’re offering.
Check the “Value for money” section. It’s where restaurants generally get good scores.
If you have a bad score, then it means customers have not been completely satisfied with their dining experience and may even feel like they have been ripped off.
This is a sign that you might need to adjust your prices.
- Do a Satisfaction Survey
Sample surveys from Snap Surveys.
It’s important to understand your restaurant’s weaknesses. Don’t worry; every restaurant – at one point or another – experiences these.
That’s why conducting customer satisfaction surveys help. You will learn what your customers focus on most.
Wondering what questions to include in your survey? Check out this guide.
Once you understand these concerns, you’ll know exactly where and when to improve. Here are more ways you’ll benefit from conducting customer surveys:
- You’ll avoid negative online reviews
- You’ll get honest feedback.
- You’ll increase sales with incentives such as offering discounts to complete an in-person survey.
- You’ll monitor quality-there are things only your customers will notice
- You’ll collect customer contact details e.g email address for further marketing promotions
Guest Satisfaction Surveys featured the Fazoli’s Guest Experience Survey.
You can send a satisfaction survey to customers via email after they leave the restaurant – or, perhaps send them out through your monthly email campaigns.
- Inquire About Your Customers Dining Experience
Another way you can get feedback from your customers is by asking them directly about their dining experience. You can do this through a natural and non-commercial conversation.
You can also give away cards or flyers with a list of websites that they can leave their reviews of your restaurant.
TripAdvisor’s restaurants in Auckland reviews.
Online reviews are a critical factor for your customers. If your restaurant has a lot of good reviews, then you have a greater chance to attract new customers – customers who may not have even heard of you before.
Check your customers’ reviews on a daily basis on the internet, Facebook, social networking accounts and more so on specialised sites.
Stay active on these listing websites and keep building a good online reputation. Respond to negative reviews constructively and encourage positive reviews. Show them that their feedback matters to you, and they’re far more likely to trust and respect your business.
- Create a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Shared by Eric Cacciatore of Restaurant Unstoppable, come up with a unique selling proposition or what Seth Godin calls a “Purple Cow”. Something that is truly unique and special that you have to offer your local community.
The best brands create USPs that are intangible; things like relatable core values, missions and visions. Appeal to the consumer’s mind and heart. Ask, “How will this make the guest feel?” or “how will the customer think they are being perceived by society when they align themselves with your restaurant’s brand?”
- Stand Out from the ‘Crowd’
When consumers choose one restaurant over another, it’s usually because that restaurant has something unique to offer. Be the restaurant that consumers are going to choose every time:
- Provide the best possible service
- Offer added value, get creative
- Perhaps specialise in a type of traditional cooking from a particular country
- Or pick a theme for your restaurant
When it comes to uniqueness of idea and concept, The Cat Lounge is like no other. It’s the first cafe of its kind in the whole of New Zealand!
Make sure that guests leave the restaurant with a memorable dining experience. This will not only keep them coming back but will also give you a competitive edge over your rivals. Get to know your competitors and look at their approaches. This way, you’ll discover exactly how to learn from them and, more importantly, differentiate yourself as a business.
Another great tip on standing out from Murray Wright is to come up with a signature item. It can be a dish, drink, décor, service approach, uniforms or a combination all of these things.
“Be famous for one thing that gets people so excited that they talk about it to their friends and recommend you or if they see it being served in the restaurant they want to order it.”
Ace your Digital Marketing Game
- Maximize Internet Use (to Your Advantage)
Today, people turn to the Internet for nearly everything– including looking for great eating spots. Taking advantage of that is near-essential for your restaurant business.
So, now’s the right time to make the most of all that the Internet has to offer.
- Create or improve your website
- Try online advertising.
- Creating a mailing list to send your customers regular deals, discounts or updates is an affordable way to keep them coming back.
- Create Your Restaurant’s Website
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would you find a good restaurant online? ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with finding, well, nearly anything. If you don’t have a website, you are guaranteed to miss out on a large number of potential customers.
Set up a website for your restaurant to help you convince customers to visit.
Key points to remember when creating a restaurant website by Online Store Guys.
Clueless on how or where to start in building your restaurant’s website? Here’s a simple guide to learning what important things your customers need to see on your website.
There are many free website templates available on the Internet that are tailored for restaurants.
- Spruce up Your Mobile Image
Millennials are an influential customer demographic. Technology is a constant part of their lives. When it comes to something as simple as where to eat, the information millennials find online will greatly influence their choice. Be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, have a presence on the platforms they visit.
- Work with Influencers
Work with “Influencers” such as bloggers, Instagrammers, and Youtubers. Those with large followings on social media can serve as a great channel to reach your target customers. Come up with creative ways to get these “digital celebrities” to talk about you and your business on their social media channels.
- Be On Social Media Networks
Restaurant businesses can’t afford to skip being on social media. Period.
Make sure that you engage with your customers and staff. You can share your staff’s photos at work, your special dishes, or any important event happening in your restaurant. Focus on appealing content that adds value.
On your behalf, social media agencies can take care of engaging with your customers on your social media platforms. However, there’s a risk of losing authenticity in case customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers all along rather than the business owners.
Here are a few helpful things to consider when joining social media:
- After creating a restaurant profile on the most popular social networks, don’t leave them dormant – stay active and post regularly.
- If you’re only starting up, you can still interact with your future customers before opening your restaurant.
- Keep people up-to-date on the latest happenings in your restaurant.
- Get your customers engaged by having them vote on things like menu items, specialty dishes, and cocktails.
- You can also hold contests and reward those who’ll share about your restaurant on their social network.
- Create an Email Marketing Campaign
Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools you can use to attract and retain customers. The quicker you become established, the better – your competitors as well, are picking up and applying the same email marketing techniques.
- Start a Food/Recipe Blog
Blogging about your restaurant is a great way to spread the word and attract more customers.
There are loads of ideas for blog posts. Recipes, events or stories about how you started, your staff, or behind the scenes in your restaurant are great starting points.
You can mix it up however you like. Give your blog an authentic voice that matches your brand personality and it’ll do wonders for marketing your business.
If you are too busy, with hardly any time to spare (which is very likely) consider enlisting a certified copywriter to handle your blog section so that you can attend to other business matters.
- Promote Your Business on Facebook
According to Carlos, Facebook is a great tool for highly targeted marketing. You can define your offer with variables such as age group, area, behaviour, and time that people are online.
Particularly powerful is the fact that Facebook allows you to segment your marketing and open areas of your business up to other customers without damaging your core business.
- Organise Food and Lifestyle Blogger Events
Bloggers – potentially those with large online followings – can help you create a buzz about your business.
Got a new menu? Set up a menu launch and have food and lifestyle bloggers over to try your new offerings.
Aside from coming and experiencing your new menu, these bloggers would write about the whole experience on their blogs, share photos of the place and food on their Instagrams, or even tweet about your restaurant and your new menu.
- Set-up an Email Sales Machine
The goal is to stay in your customers’ minds.
Come up with creative ways to get customers to give their email addresses (like having a birthday club or setting up a blog)
You can use this email list to update customers on your latest menu additions, promos, blog posts, upcoming events, holiday specials, and a whole lot more.
- Grow Your Audience – The SEO Way
Carlos Swinton-Lee of Bar & Restaurant Consultants shared that using SEO and digital marketing are still the most effective ways of growing your audience.
Claiming your Google places page early and keeping your site updated with fresh, relevant content will always help you rise to the top. Responding to and encouraging reviews from Zomato, TripAdvisor and other third-party platforms will also keep you more current in the e-world of food. Likewise, using SEO tools on your website to target local searches will help you gain exposure on Google.
“Converting your audience to paying customers is a little trickier and cannot be done with marketing alone, reputation will always spread far and wide so concentrating on a quality experience with great service and a fantastic product is paramount,” said Swinton-Lee.
- Facilitate Online Orders and Bookings
Customers who are too busy to go out prefer ordering online.
Add a booking button to your website so that visitors can easily make reservations in just a few clicks. Unless you are open 24/7, then it’s best that you have an online booking system.
Having an online booking system will make everything easy, practical, and fast for your customers. Give them that kind of convenience and they’re definitely going to remember you.
- Get Listed on Popular Food Guides
It’ll make it easier for your customers to find you, especially those who haven’t heard of you before.
Reference guides such as TheFork or TripAdvisor are just some of the websites customers run to when they need to find a good restaurant.
Check out Heart of the City Auckland’s long list of dining and bars with contact details, websites, Google map locations and short restaurant/food descriptions. Here, they can search by location, price range, type of food, and the service offered. The key here is exposure.
- Update Your Free and Paid Directory Listings
Aside from social media, don’t forget to regularly update your listings on free and paid directories regularly. Directory listings like Zomato (UrbanSpoon), TripAdvisor, Yelp, AGFG, TrueLocal, FourSquare, TimeOut, PartyStar, Venuetohire, VenueMob, and TheHappiestHour help people when searching for a restaurant or café, making these an easy, low-effort way to attract more customers.
- Reward Your Loyal Customers
Rewards give your customers a good reason to keep coming back to your restaurant. Come up with a loyalty program installed on your Point of Sales (POS) System that will record what customers purchase so they can collect points and rewards.
If your customers know that they will get something in return for always eating at your place, they’ll not only keep coming back, they might invite their friends to visit your place, too.
In winning loyal customers, Nicole Kelly of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, says we can make guests feel special by remembering their birthdays (via Facebook) or their favourite dish or wine style – this will drive loyalty and repeat visitation.
A recent survey was made on 2000 businesses with different loyalty programs. 14 million visits from one million customers were recorded. According to the study, loyal customers (those who visited at least 10 times) only make up 20 percent of the total customers. However, that 20 percent drives a whopping 80 percent of the total revenue and 72 percent of total visits.
Keep Track of Your Finances
- Track Your Inventory and Food Costs
Keep track of food costs on a daily basis so as to know their standings each day. For instance, if you start noticing that food costs are higher by 5%, then you’ll know that you’ve had a soft month and that you’ve been selling too much of this or probably not much of the other.
It also helps to look at what menu items are not selling well, and decide if you’ll need to make adjustments on orders, dishes, and the menu to compensate for food costs.
Here’s a helpful video about how to calculate food cost percentage.
- Itemised Sales Report
This report tells you what your customers like. It will be very useful for your chefs and kitchen managers because it allows them to plan better daily specials and prepare only popular best-selling dishes.
This is also the best way to find out what you need to place on your menu to increase sales. Thus, directly influencing what customers want to order and how much they are going to spend.
- Hourly Staff Labour Report
Having an hourly labour report will improve your work scheduling. Keep track of the total hours a staff has worked, the category of his/her tasks, and part of the day. Since labour is one of the biggest costs in running a restaurant, having an hourly labour report will give you an idea when you will go over the budget of hours and if a staff member will have to go over his scheduled hours and work overtime hours.
- Go Easy on the Discounts
Giving up on discounting will have an immediate effect on your bottom line. If you always offer discounts, what’s the point of having a regular retail price?
Discounting costs you money and it gives people the impression that your normal prices are a rip-off.
Discounts will devalue your product.
Think about rug retailers that are always advertising massive discount sales on TV. How often do they say, for example, “up to 80 percent discount on all floor stocks! Final clearance sale! The old stock has to be sold ASAP!” Trouble is, people become oblivious to all these sales when they become the status quo. They cease having an impact. They are no longer believable.
Rather than discounting, simply offer add-on value. You could consider something like “buy a coffee – get a free slice”, “Spend over $10 and get a free coffee”. Freebies are far more tangible and effective than a hard-to-prove discount.
Keeping an Eye on Your Supplies
- Analyse – Make Or Buy?
Consider your kitchen workload and come up with a thorough make-or-buy analysis. Make a list of which items you can make from scratch and the ones you can purchase ready to use. Besides cutting costs, this move can also contribute to better food quality for your customers.
- Order Wisely
This is the best way to control food costs. Keep an inventory with details of supplied items and quantities. Assessing your expenses to manage food costs is a key strategy to boost your bottom line. For items used in large quantities, make bulk orders.
Upon delivery, always count and weigh the delivered supplies to confirm that you are getting exactly what you paid for.
- Be Kitchen Intelligent – Understand How and where Money Is Spent
Kirsty and Matthew Krueger of iChef share a few restaurant business plan tips on ‘kitchen intelligence’:
- Come up with regular reviews of menu costs to makes sure you are not selling your menu short.
- Conduct weekly stocktakes to determine food cost percentage so you know what changes you need to make.
- Set stock holding levels for particular days of the week. This will help prevent stock loss due to over-ordering.
- Setting preparation par levels over kitchen preparation is as important, this will ensure freshness of food products.
- Directly Shop From Local Farms
Products purchased directly from local farmers are fresher and often cheaper because there are no middle-men suppliers. Find a local farmer close to you via the farmersmarkets.org.nz
- Negotiate with your Suppliers
Communicating with your suppliers will help you get the best deals for your business. Don’t be shy to discuss with your suppliers about reducing your costs. It’s also okay to let them know that you are getting quotes from competitors.
Building Your Own A-Team
- Keep Your Employees Healthy
You are more likely to lose a lot of money if you have most of your employees taking sick leave. But, you can dramatically reduce this illness cases amongst your employees.
But how? Keep your staff healthy by ensuring that they work in a clean and germ-free environment.
Also, keep your commercial kitchen clean and sanitized at all times with the Alsco clean and hygienic tea towels, kitchen towels and other linen.
Moreover, have your staff wear properly cleaned catering work wear. Provide them with sufficient hand sanitizers in the washrooms and kitchen to help keep their hands germ-free before and after handling food.
- Lead by Example
Frankly, actions speak louder than words, anywhere, anytime. As the leader of your business, you’d definitely want to lead by example. To set the right precedents.
Here are some useful points to help you lead better by example:
- Be kind and sensitive to your staff’s feelings.
- Take time to make your staff feel special.
- Listen to both your staff’s emotions and words.
- Be open-minded and view your staff’s needs and wants as valid.
- Choose your battles wisely-some fights are never worth the effort.
- Everyone is unique; respect their differences.
- Take responsibility and avoid being defensive.
- Give them the benefit of doubt.
- Treat your staff the way you’d like to be treated
- Never take them for granted.
- Delegate more and create solutions
- Manage Unwell Employees
You can’t force sick employees to work. You’d be risking their health and your business. In case a member of your staff is showing signs of sickness such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or fever, immediately send them home to get rest.
Never attempt to assign them to tasks that involve being in direct contact with food. Remind your employees that it’s essential to report to management whenever they feel sick.
- Hand Pick Loyal Employees
When hiring, look for candidates who have loyal work histories. Loyal employees are more likely to stick around longer. It will be worth investing time and money on then they are less likely to leave prematurely.
- Go for Experienced Candidates
Donald Cooper, an international management speaker and business coach says:
“Not hiring the right people carries a huge cost in missed opportunity, wasted training costs, inefficiency, destroyed morale, frustration and wasted time. And getting rid of ‘bad hires’ is costly and disruptive.”
Consider a candidate’s work experience when hiring. Experienced employees will need less training. The time that could have been spent on training an inexperienced new employee can be better spent by focusing on guests and other important concerns.
- Focus on Training and Development
The key to a successful business is to surround yourself and work with brilliant and talented people.
Any under-performing employee, new or a veteran will cost you time and money. And the best solution is to improve these employees’ skills through training.
Ben Carroll of Applejack Hospitality also shares that while recruitment strategies are important, it is working on culture, training, and development that guarantees staff retention, and staff retention means less time and money spent on recruitment.
“On the training side of things we run a group internal cocktail competition, the six finalists battle it out at an event held at one of our venues with great prizes up for grabs (trips to Melbourne, booze etc). The cocktail bartenders work with the group’s bars manager (Lachlan Sturrock) to help create the perfectly balanced drink whilst also having to name it and price it to ensure it has the correct GP. We run these comps quarterly and have invite down industry celebrity to assist with the judging.”
Business Consultant Dean Dalton of DaltonPlan shares a flow chart that they’ve been using to effectively get staff to follow instructions and perform tasks the best way possible.
Hitting Your Green Initiative Goals
- Involve Your Staff in Your Green Initiatives
Making your business eco-friendly and achieving your green initiatives requires teamwork. An excellent approach is to promote to your staff, efficient business methods proven to preserve the environment.
For a start, have all your staff involved by:
- Educating them about the importance of sorting out recyclable items.
- Telling them to turn off lights when not in use.
- Encouraging them to bring in their own take-home containers instead of using disposable restaurant packaging etc.
- Switch to ‘Energy Efficient’ Everything
Energy efficient appliances may cost you more but they definitely consume less. In just a year or two, the appliance pays for itself through all the energy savings.
Let’s have a look at an example:
Switching to Energy Efficient Lighting: When you make the big switch to energy efficient lighting options in your restaurant, you can save up to $22 per bulb per year. Plus, this wise move will drastically reduce your electricity bills.
EECA’s energy efficient light bulbs tool will help you estimate how much money you could save by changing to energy efficient light bulbs.
- Don’t Need Lights Yet? Keep Them Off
Keeping lights off when not in use is a great energy saving habit. You may also incorporate intelligent lighting options that automatically turn lights off when an area is naturally well illuminated and doesn’t need artificial lighting.
- Use Water Sparingly
Another great green initiative is to avoid water wastage. You’ll not only save water but will also cut your bill costs. Encourage simple habit changes such as:
- Running the dishwasher only when it is completely full
- Loosening dried food by soaking rather than rinsing
- Fixing leaky faucets and pipes
- Using low flow pre-rinse spray nozzles among others.
All these can help you cut down on water, soap and energy costs – saving your business money.
- Get Rid Of Plastics
It is high time to stop using plastic materials in restaurants. The good news is that many restaurants are doing the same – and for a good reason. This ‘green’ move not only saves the environment, but it also helps restaurants save big on garbage expenses.
- Conduct Regular Energy Audits
Do regular checks on all electrical appliances, including those that use gas or other fuel. An energy audit will clearly point out areas where you are spending overspending. That report will then enable you to make necessary adjustments to lower your overall expenses.
- Wood-Burning Stove, Maybe?
You’ll be spending a sizeable amount of your energy bill on heating during the colder season. Going for a wood-burning stove might just work wonders for your business. They are cost-efficient; they will give your restaurant a cosy look and feel that customers will love.
- Switch to Glassware
Instead of using disposable plates, cups, and utensils, why don’t you consider investing in glass kitchenware and serve ware? It lasts longer, makes a better impression, and helps preserve the environment.
Backbencher Bar maximised space by storing their glasses up. Designed by Studio Design + Architecture.
- Invest in an Efficient HVAC System
Make a smart investment by getting an efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Thanks to its efficiency, it will consume less energy to heat or cool down a room. And as a result, you’ll save on your operational budget, and you wouldn’t have to disappoint customers by not being able to cool the room due to energy budgets.
- Turn Down the Thermostat
During the colder months, turning your thermostat down by a degree or two can make a big difference on your energy costs. If going from 72 to 70 degrees is still comfortable, then why not turn down the thermostat?
You can also control the heating with a thermostat timer that will warm the place up just in time for opening, and cool down on closing time.
- Upgrade Your Refrigerator
Newer refrigerator models use less energy compared to older models. So, a fridge upgrade could easily save you money in the long run.
Knowing how to maintain your commercial refrigerators will keep them running efficiently both now – and in the years to come. Thus, saving you unnecessary repair costs and downtime.
- Just Cool Drinks, Not Frozen
Your restaurant kitchen will evidently need refrigerators to keep food and beverages cool. Use your fridge efficiently by just keeping the drinks cool. They don’t really need to be frozen.
Watching Your Waste
- Manage Kitchen Waste and Spoilage
Too much waste in the kitchen means higher food costs. That’s why it’s important to always remind your employees of the common practices that prevent food waste:
- Store and handle food properly
- Accurately measure portion sizes
- Avoid preparing large quantities of food in advance
- Avoid purchasing too much inventory.
Train and monitor your kitchen staff. Pay attention to what is in the kitchen trash cans to know what’s being wasted. This will help you keep your food costs under control.
- Be Creative with the Scraps
Educate your employees on the importance of not wasting food and encourage them to use as much of each ingredient as possible. There are also lots of great ways to use up food scraps.
Avoid environmental impact and save money by reducing your restaurant’s daily food waste.
Start Making Smart Moves
Now you are ready to come up with a strong business plan for your restaurant. With these carefully picked tips and ideas, making your restaurant’s business plan shouldn’t feel like a burden anymore!
Remember with creativity, resourcefulness, and being wise with every decision you make, you’ll be set to create a great business plan for your restaurant. And ultimately turn your restaurant into an integral establishment in your local community.
One wise way of doing things smarter is to save time and money by partnering with Alsco for their restaurant linen, uniform, floor care, first aid and hygiene supplies. Trusted by thousands of New Zealand businesses, you can’t go wrong with Alsco’s expert services.
Get in touch with Alsco today for their carefully honed rental services that are efficient, timely and cost-effective – no matter what. It couldn’t be easier.