One of the warnings that new restaurant owners hear when they talk about opening their own restaurant is that it will require long hours in order to earn the mount of money you would earn in a 9 to 5 job. Sadly, for many restaurant owners, that is very true. Everything they own is tied up in their restaurant, and it consumes almost all of their time. You can see this in almost any community with independent restaurants. They are surviving, but they are not what you would consider restaurant success stories.
Restaurant success can mean many different things, depending on who you talk to, but most owners will agree that there is a vast difference between running a successful restaurant and managing to keep your doors open. Most people with an entrepreneurial spirit do not want to become slaves to their business. Yet many restaurant owners become just that. If the restaurant is open, the owner is there.
So, how does a restaurant become successful. While defining success will be different from owner to owner, there are some keys to restaurant success that most will agree on.
A great meal starts with great food. A meal that is well prepared with quality ingredients is a must on any menu. It would take a true friend to come back to your restaurant time and again if the food was not good.
Along with the quality of the food is that it is consistent. One truth of restaurants is that you will not be able to please everyone with every dish. If the majority of the people that try an item like it, then do not change it. If you change your recipe every time a customer complains you will never have any consistency with your menu. Then when a customer that did like the item returns, they will be unhappy that the recipe changed, and they did not receive what they wanted.
Customers will go where they are treated well. It does not matter how good the food is if your customer service is bad. Your customers are coming to your restaurant for the dining experience, not just for good food. If their experience is not enjoyable, they will start looking for a restaurant that treats them with care and respect.
For your restaurant to be a success, you need to take the time to train your staff in how to treat your customers. Everyone from the greeter to the dishwasher needs to know and understand how to respond to any complaint or suggestion from a customer. While the customer may not always be right, they are the one who pay the bills. Without them, you have no business.
The next thing that will add to, or destroy, the customers experience is the cleanliness of your restaurant operation. For many customers, if there is anything that appears to be dirty or unsanitary, they will automatically assume that the entire operation is unsanitary. They will never know whether you serve the best food in town or not, because they will be so put off by cleanliness issues that they will never eat at your restaurant.
Cleanliness and sanitation does not stop with the physical building. It extends to the hygiene of your staff. Although it can be difficult to have personal cleanliness discussions with your staff, you need to make sure that they come to work clean, and wearing clean uniforms.
While your customers will never see the administrative part of your business, they will see the results. If you fail to keep your costs under control you business will suffer. When costs tart to escalate, there are things that some restaurant owners do that will have serious consequences to your business.
The first step restaurant owners take is to reduce the size of the staff. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can have some negative results. If the staff gets too small to serve the customers adequately, you will have customer service issues. In order to avoid that the owner will need to start doing more work on top of the work they are already doing. That will mean even more hours spent in the restaurant.
The next thing restaurant owners consider to reduce costs is to use lower quality ingredients. Lower quality ingredients will lead to lower quality menu items, which will very well result in fewer customers. If the owner tries to lower the food cost without lowering the quality of the food, they will sometimes consider raising the menu prices. When money is already tight, many customers are bargain hunting, and increased menu prices will drive them away.
The easiest way to control your costs is to make sure you have menu items properly costed before setting your menu. Then you need to monitor your costs to make sure they are in line with your budget.
Restaurant success is a very real possibility for owners who can do the four items listed above. The better you are at any or all of these areas, the better your odds of having a successful restaurant.