Owning a restaurant is a dream for many that can quickly turn into a nightmare. It’s just about guaranteed that you’ll face obstacles both typical and unforeseen; however, given the right business plan, the proper concept and a resilient staff, your dream could be fully realized. Below are five tips to help first-time restaurant owners build a strong foundation for success.
5 Tips for First-Time Restaurant Owners
1. Prioritize consistency
There is only one thing better than a happy customer and that’s a repeat customer who is just as happy on their second, third, fourth visit. Once you’ve bought into your concept, maintaining consistency through every aspect of your restaurant will be key. This consistency is not limited to just food and beverage, which will be the fundamental driver of your restaurant’s success. No, this consistency applies to all facets of your restaurant including the level of service, the cleanliness, the atmosphere and everything in between.
Convenience is a commodity after all, and customers can just as easily go somewhere else if even the slightest disruption is enough to impact their future selection. Finding new customers is no easy task and requires additional work on its own. Study the customer journey within your establishment, from seating to paying the bill. Look for any inefficiencies that can be easily remedied in order to streamline the customer’s experience.
2. Invest in Strong Leadership
The service industry, while rewarding, can be stressful and filled with competing personalities that can lead to conflict when not properly managed. Strong management, whether it be for front or back of house, will be a determining factor of a restaurant’s success. Your management should dictate the tone of your service and adhere to customers’ needs with a smile.
You’ll need to select the right type of leadership who can maintain a healthy, transparent work environment that also expects and encourages a high-level of service. This transparency also applies to your relationship with management. Your managers need to feel supported and heard when changes need to be made and tough conversations must be had. A restaurant staff is a close-knit work environment, and relationships can quickly sour if you aren’t proactively keeping your finger on the pulse.
3. Leverage Technology
Technology can be a scary word, and while technology trends are important, there are some fundamental boxes to check that should be prioritized.
- Maintain consistent and accurate internet listings: If a customer cannot find your establishment’s Google listing, or the information is wrong, you’ve already potentially lost them. Make sure your photos, menu, contact information and website are all up to date. Prioritize Google, and then move on to Yelp and the Yellow Pages.
- Don’t neglect your website: Your website can be simple, but make sure it is an appropriate reflection of your brand and restaurant. Highlight your establishment and food through online photos. Make the overall web experience easy and something that sells your restaurant to someone browsing. Make sure any additional features like online ordering are seamless and easy processes, from cart to checkout.
- Utilize social media: Social media lends itself well to visual showcasing. Go live when possible, and promote exclusive offerings to inform a split-second decision by a prospect. We’ve also compiled 23 social media ideas for your restaurant.
The goal is to leverage the free and/or affordable technology to further make your restaurant and brand stand out. It’s never been easier to directly communicate with your current and prospective customers, so don’t be afraid to make the move first.
4. Reviews: Monitor But Don’t Obsess
Speaking of technology, as a first-time restaurant owner, your online reviews can make or break you, especially in your earliest stages. Monitoring reviews is a core component of reputation management.
Responding to positive reviews is important and oftentimes fun. Addressing negative reviews is not as fun, but is as simple as the following:
- Take a moment to breathe. Give yourself some time to be able to absorb the critique objectively.
- Respond politely but only apologize to the fact that they had a negative experience, do not outright admit guilt of any kind.
- Leave contact information and encourage the customer to reach out directly to speak further. This helps promote further communication and for the customer to take any further complaint offline.
The final step of addressing negative reviews is to move forward. In some cases this means taking a look at what went wrong and addressing any specific, fixable issue with your staff. Take stock of these reviews and look for any themes that could lead to larger issues. In many other cases, moving forward will just mean letting it go. You won’t be able to please every customer, and unfortunately these helpful tools can also be weaponized or used as platforms to vent.
5. Enjoy the Ride
Don’t forget to look around and remind yourself that you took the chance to make your mark on the culinary world. Owning a restaurant, especially for the first time, is no small feat. Enjoy the ride, not only for your own well-being, but the well-being of your staff and customers. A jaded owner can be toxic and contaminate everything around them. On the flipside, a dedicated and involved owner will lift up the spirits of the staff and patrons around them and give customers intangible yet powerful reasons for coming back. Don’t be afraid to embrace change, get your hands dirty and help out, and most importantly, take care of your employees.
Society Insurance is Here for Restaurant Owners
In addition to giving useful industry trends, tips and tricks, Society Insurance offers comprehensive restaurant and bar/tavern insurance coverage. To learn how Society Insurance can help your restaurant, get in touch with a local agent.