The foodie industry is a (deliciously) saturated market with plenty of competition. This is great for us as consumers, but not so great for restaurateurs. With this in mind, it is a sentient to the restaurants that break through the noise and are standout successes. Considering the volatile nature of an industry with such a high fail rate, the question we at NYSF keep asking ourselves is how do they do it? What are the secrets driving successful restaurants?
Laying a good foundation first can be the difference between a business’s success, and total failure. A successful Restaurant begins with a strong business plan. A business plan includes market research, to see who else is in the market, and if people will come. It needs a marketing plan and a tight budget. Knowing just how much money it will take to get a new restaurant off the ground is vital. Restaurants that go far make sure their finances are in order from the get go and don’t have to play catch up further down the track. New restaurants won’t make a profit for months, so the ones that plan well, succeed.
Knowledge of Customers
Knowing who your target audience is, is possibly the most important element in running any business. Successful restaurateurs know this, and market their restaurant to the specific wants and needs of customers. And they tailor the menu to suit. Do you snack while deciding on your mains? Will you splash out on a bottle, or would you rather try different beverages over the dinner service? Do you need a high chair? Or a doggy bag? Will stay all night, or move on quickly? Thriving restaurants will know the answers to these, even before you do.
People watching is one way owners establish who is in their restaurant: yes, you’re being watched. Plus if they’re smart owners will check out the competitors too. Being observant and listening is all part of the gig.
Patrons who frequent regularly are a restaurant’s bread and butter. They fill up seats, keep the place lively and are easy to please. The best restaurants don’t take these guests for granted. If you’re getting slipped an extra side dish every now and then, your local loves you.
They Listen to Feedback
While you may love a dish on a restaurant’s menu, as the seasons change, expect the dishes to change too. But remember to trust in the changes, you loved what they did last season and chances are you’ll love the new additions too. Let the staff at your favourite restaurant know when a dish is excellent or when it could do with a little something else. Successful restaurants will listen and adjust their menu accordingly.
You’ll notice the restaurants that do well don’t just listen to praise, but are open to criticism. You have chosen to spend your hard earned money at their establishment, so if something is wrong with the food or the service, let them know. Just remember it wasn’t personal.
Have you ever seen the person behind the bar sample your drink (with a straw of course) before giving it to you? Quality control is important. Sampling the food on the menu, ordering an irregular dish, or a glass of wine is all part of the gig for successful cafe and bar owners, not just the perks of the job. Having an objective view on their own restaurant can be a difficult task for owners, so be honest with your feedback.
Keep on Brand
Think of your favourite place to go and eat. Think about what makes it unique. That’s the brand of the restaurant, their voice. The branding goes beyond just a name and logo. Everything from the uniform, tableware, the colour of cups and seating, the kind of staff employed — all form a business’s brand. They set the tone for the restaurant; so successful restaurants make conscious decisions about each element.
Likewise, a restaurant should have a ‘tone’ for its food. This is unwavering — no matter how much the menu changes, you will know each dish could only be made at that particular restaurant. You know what to expect when you come in the door. That’s what makes an establishment unique and why people will keep coming back. Think about McDonald’s. Consistency is key.
This doesn’t mean restaurants should have a fixed menu or become stagnant. Successful restaurants are able to adapt to the tastes of customers without losing their own tone or values. They’re able to move through new diet trends, and change with the seasons.
They Have Excellent Staff
Great staff can make or break your night out. Successful restaurants invest in quality staff, as it is these men and women who become the face and identity of the business itself. A restaurant cannot run without a chef, just as it cannot run without a waitress, or a dishwasher. Every employee has an important role to play, and so it is vital for establishments to develop a positive work culture that nurtures and trains restaurant staff to be the best at what they do. When a Maître D’ greets you by name as you walk in the door you feel special. This simple gesture will keep you coming back.
New restaurants can live or die on first impressions and the recommendations of friends, so marketing plays an important role in the beginning to ensure a business is successful. There are many ways to market a restaurant. You’ll notice restaurants in your city amp up their own advertising when a new business opens.
Menu sampling is popular. If it’s fresh and delicious you’ll stop by next time for more.
Signage doesn’t have to be garish to stand out, if you can’t read it, you won’t go in.
Social media means that we are targeted online. Businesses can pinpoint the exact market they want and advertise directly on these potential customer’s newsfeeds. There’s a reason your favourite places keep popping up.
Deciding where you will dine can be left to the spur of the moment, which is why you’ll notice the wise restaurants getting their message to their intended audience at exactly the right time. An ad for lamb shanks and red wine on a wintery afternoon is sure to appeal, or Facebook Live posts showing how many people are attending an event can give you sense of ‘FOMO’ — fear of missing out, and find you wishing you were there.
Write your favourite restaurants testimonials on review pages like Tripadvisor and Yelp. They can be particularly helpful for start up restaurants. Ranking high on sites like these and in trending food blogs and magazines means more people will be directed to that restaurant, and they’ll be able to keep giving you the service you like.
Next time you dine out, think about what the restaurant could be doing better to get more people through the doors, or to keep you coming back.