There’s always a lot of competition in the restaurant industry. To succeed, restaurateurs have to make sure to stay up-to-date with food trends and how they impact their menu, day-to-day operations, marketing and more. If you have to juggle so many things in the air, how do you ensure your restaurant’s success?
We work with some small and medium size restaurants nationwide and we asked them what, in their experience, the biggest challenges are in the restaurant industry. We were able to identify these four marketing and three operational challenges:
Challenge #1: The Menu
A menu is more than an informational piece, it is a balance game. Having too many items can end up in a paradox of choice and more ingredients and costs to prepare them; showing dotted lines for prices can persuade guests to buy the cheapest item available; and an off-brand design can create an emotional disconnection with your restaurant story. You will need to keep your menu in check to stay in focus with your final goal as a brand and as a business so you can keep producing orders at a faster table turn-over rate.
Once you’ve defined your menu’s journey, make it available on your site and make sure it is SEO friendly and responsive.
For more tips on menu design and menu engineering, read this article An Exclusive Look at Our Menu Engineering Worksheet.
Challenge #2: Customer Experience
The restaurant industry is a service-first industry, and, as such, first impressions are important. Getting positive reviews is really nice, but, whenever a bad review is published, it becomes a deal breaker for current or potential guests. Your food may be delicious, your ambiance unique and attractive and your location exceptional, but if your service is bad, customers will remember.
Great customer service starts with the involvement of all staff members – from management to hostess to wait staff and busboys to chef to cooks. All team members should be dedicated to make each and every customer feel valued and welcomed. The way this is done is directly related to the dining experience and customer retention rates.
In this digital age, we also have to have in mind that customer service goes beyond the four walls of your store. It extends to social media engagement, online reviews, etc. So, being proactive in these channels will also make an impact on the way your restaurant, food and overall brand is perceived.
Challenge #3: What Makes You Unique?
Why should current or potential patrons bother about your brand and food? This is a question that restaurateurs fail to answer because they don’t know why people should eat at their restaurant and not at their competitor’s. Many restaurant owners say that what makes them unique is their menu, but what they don’t understand is that a menu is a given due to the nature of the business. Anyone can have great food and great service, how do you go beyond that? The answer is a 360º dining experience!
This means that you need to define your brand story - what people will know you for - and this comes in the form of how they engage with your brand. For example, if you have a healthy lifestyle restaurant, it wouldn’t make sense to showcase as your brand positioning something such as “finger lickin’ good,” which is tied directly with KFC. You probably want something that relates more to the story you’re telling and the type of audience you want to impact.
In a nutshell, your food, your service, your brand and your story will create your identity and uniqueness to engage with your customers emotionally.
Challenge #4: Marketing
Overall, businesses tend to ignore the importance of marketing for one reason or another. But, the most common reason is because they don’t know where to start. This is especially true for restaurateurs as just dealing with the daily operations is enough to be running around like a headless chicken. So, below is a short checklist that you can follow to keep your marketing in check:
- Define and formalize your brand style guides including your mission, vision, values, logo, positioning statement, brand guidelines, etc.
- Make a marketing plan. Not having one can be daunting, but, don’t panic, start small with a three-month plan and work up to a six-month or year-long plan
- Make sure your website is responsive and following the latest UI and UX trends
- Get your social media channels up-to-date and start engaging and interacting with your audience
- Create a social media advertising plan. According to statistics, only 1% of your posts are organically seen, that means that if you have 1,000 followers 10 people will see your post and if you have 10,000 only 100 people will see your post. Advertising will allow you to amplify that reach and get more exposure
- Start an email database and develop an email program
- Create and implement a loyalty program
- Create an internal program to push gift card sales
Challenge #1: Management
The daily management of a restaurant is tedious and stressful. There is a lot of data gathering and number crunching. But, this is one of the most important components of your restaurant machine. If you don’t know how to analyze your business, how would you know if you’re profitable? Some of the list items we normally suggest our clients to keep in check are:
- Number of guests served by mealtime
- Average guest check
- Number of ordered menu items to keep identify stars, workhorses, dogs and puzzles
- Cost to prepare each menu item (ingredient by ingredient)
- Profit margin per each menu item
- Staff costs
- Sales vs. staff cost comparisons
- What are your sales goals?
- Track weekly P&L
These are just but a few things that will help you keep your sanity and really make sure that you stay on target in terms of your profit.
Challenge # 2: Effective Inventory Management and Menu Pricing
Inventory and menu pricing should take into consideration the ordering process to limit waste. This will have a direct impact not only on our environment, but also on the fluctuating ingredients costs, which impact gross profit on menu items. Menu pricing should be organic and have fluidity as frequent and small increases in menu prices are easier to sell than larger more noticeable increases done infrequently.
Challenge #3: Hiring and Training Staff
Hiring and training the right employees can make the difference when it comes to your daily operations. Having trustworthy, proactive and reliable staff member brings peace of mind. Yet, the employee turnover rate in the restaurant industry is really high.
Placing greater emphasis on finding and training staff will help you reduce costs over time and will allow you to provide better customer service and a better customer experience overall. So, once you find that perfect person:
- Train them and offer training manuals, checklists, goals and incentives
- Inspire them
- Train them to address any situation, good or bad, that arises
- Make sure they understand the brand’s vision, mission and values and are motivated to pursue the brand’s and business’ goals and adhere to your restaurant’s unique concept
- Establish and maintain a solid management structure so everyone knows and understands their own, as well as their team member’s responsibilities
- Your management team should be exemplary, committed, motivational and adept at running the restaurant in your absence
These are just a few of the challenges that we have identified during our time working with our restaurant clients. Are you a restaurateur or a restaurant manager and have experienced other challenges? We’d love to hear about your experience. Do you have more to say about what we’ve discussed in this article? Please share challenge below as well as the how you approached the situation and solved the issue.
Are you facing challenges with your marketing plan? Contact us today (951) 479-5411.