CREATE THE PERFECT AMBIENCE
1. Décor And Design Matters
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 is these two aspects that can really seal the deal when it comes to making a memorable experience. This is how Michael Shen rates restaurants.
If you are going to need professional help with the design and decor of your restaurant, Alexandra Morris, a Sydney-based Commercial Interior Design, adds that it’s important to always appoint a great designer that has a portfolio of hospitality projects.
“Not only will they maximise the best use of your space, they will guide you through the procedures involved with council regulations as well as making sure the overall design meets Australian Standards and food codes.” Alexandra Morris
2. Plan Before Doing 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 style of food offering.
Peter Giannakis of www.thehospitalitycoach.net said:
“I often see new business owners who were sold equipment they just didn’t end up fully utilising. The style of food will also dictate the layout and workflow when designing your kitchen.”
3. Space Constraints Shouldn’t Be A Problem
If you think your space is not big enough, it’s okay. Having an available seating under 10 is still a great way to cut costs not just on your fit out but 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.
4. Optimise 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.
KEEPING AN EYE ON YOUR SUPPLIES
5. Order Wisely
This is the best way to control food costs. Keep an inventory that will tell you the details and quantities of supplies. Assessing your expenses to manage food costs is one key strategy to boost your bottom line. You can also order in bulk for certain items that are used in large quantity.
6. Count And Weigh Delivered Supplies
Always count and weigh food when they are delivered to make sure that you are getting what you paid for.
7. Do A Make-Or-Buy Analysis
You may also want to reconsider your kitchen workload by coming up with a thorough make-or-buy analysis. Make a list of which items you can make from scratch and which ones you can just purchase prepared. Aside from cutting costs, this move can also ensure a higher quality of food that you serve your customers.
8. Talk To 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.
9. Develop Relationships With Local Farms
Products from local farmers are a lot fresher and often cheaper as the middle-man suppliers aren’t necessary.
Find a local farmer close to you via the localharvest.org.au
10. Be Kitchen Intelligent – Understand How Money Is Spent And Where.
- 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.
PUT YOUR FINANCES IN ORDER
11. Track Your Inventory And Food Cost
It may be best to track food costs on a daily basis so you know where they are each day. E.g. if you start noticing that food costs are 5% too high, you know that you’ve had a soft month and have been selling too much of this or probably not enough of that.
It also helps to look at what menu items are not selling so you know if you will need to make adjustments on ordering, dishes, and the menu to compensate for food costs.
Here’s a helpful video about how to calculate food cost percentage.
12. Menu Item Sales Report
This report tells you what your customers like and will be very useful for your chefs and kitchen managers as 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, directly influencing what customers want to order and how much they are going to spend.
13. Hourly Staff Labour Report
Having an hourly labour report will improve your work scheduling. Keep track of the total hours a staff worked, the category of his/her task, 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.
14. 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% discount on all floor stock! Final clearance sale! 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 more add-on value instead. 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.
“Selling is not about price. It’s all about value”
MAKING THEM GO ‘OOH!’ WITH YOUR MENU
15. Always Mention The Major Ingredients
Mention the major ingredients in each dish. If they fit, use ethnic names as they add an authentic flair to the menu description.
16. Put A Lot Of Thought Into Menu Design
Your menu is a reflection of your restaurant. Its fonts, colours and layout should match your restaurant’s concept, location, and theme.
- 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 a 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. 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?
17. Positioning Items On A Menu
Be smart when positioning items on your menu.
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.
Here are tips and tricks for making the most of your restaurant menu by BuzztimeBusiness.
18. Rate Your Dishes On How Well They Sold
Another great idea from iChef is to rate each of your dishes and keep a tally. This will give you the pros and cons to their suitability for the menu.
19. Have A Specialty Menu On Special Occasions Or Holidays
You can put together a menu unique to special events, holidays or occasions.
This will allow you to keep control over your costs and inventory while expanding your meal selection.
20. Offer Healthy Options
Offer healthy options on your menu. Healthy food choices are becoming more important for customers’ restaurant choices, so make sure you have particularly healthy menu options available.
Offering meals with whole grains, vegetables, and fresh seafood on your menu is also another way to impress your customers with your varied range of dishes.
You don’t necessarily have to remove items from your menu. But 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.”
Vanessa 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.
21. Trim Down Your Menu
Track the sales of every item in 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.
22. 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. Avoid high food cost items on slow months as much as possible.
Here are some tips from HowCast on how to design a menu.
23. 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.
IMPROVING YOUR MARKETING GAME
24. Make The Most Of The Internet
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 or 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.
25. Use Wi-Fi Marketing Platforms
Cody Hicks of Turnstyle shares how Wi-Fi marketing platforms can be surprisingly effective at helping restaurants build their email lists quickly.
You can get contact information from guests who sign-in to your Wi-Fi in exchange for a free wireless connection. This way, you can send out updates, messages, and coupons, giving them more reasons to keep visiting your restaurant.
26. Spread The Word
“Word of Mouth” can be a very influential element that can drive purchase decisions. Consumers recommend a restaurant to their friends and family if they’ve had a great dining experience. If you have loyal customers, loyalty cards/membership will make them 70% more likely to spread the word about your business.
Here are 5 Principles of Word of Mouth Marketing:
27. Use SEO To Grow Your Audience
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. Respond and encouraging reviews from Zomato, Trip Advisor and the other 3rd-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 more tricky 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.” – Carlos Swinton-Lee
28. Make The Most Of 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.
The founder of Marketing4Restaurants.com, James Eling reminds us that:
“Remember, Facebook marketing for restaurants is not about how many Likes you have, it is about having the right objectives, and that is usually finding more new customers and turning them into repeat customers.”
29. Put Up A Food/Recipe Blog
Blogging about your restaurant can be 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 in marketing your business.
30. Start A Birthday Club
When a customer comes to celebrate his/her birthday in your restaurant, reward the birthday celebrantwith a free meal. This is a huge opportunity to encourage other prospective customers to celebrate their birthday party at your restaurant with their friends and family.
You can also use your mailing list to invite whoever is celebrating their birthday in any given month to do it at your restaurant.
31. 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.
32. Reward Loyal Customers
Rewards give your customers a good reason to keep coming back to your restaurant. Come up with aloyalty 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 1 million customers were recorded. According to the study, loyal customers (those who visited at least 10 times) only make up 20% of the total customers. However, that 20% drives a whopping 80% of the total revenue and 72% of total visits.
33. Be On Social Media
Restaurant businesses simply can’t afford to skip on social media. Make sure that you both 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
Use social media to drive visitation – photos of dishes should be posted daily – photos of staff having fun, mixing cocktails, receiving new or interesting stock, visiting the markets. – Nicole Kelly of Restaurant & Catering Association
Social media agencies can take care of engaging with your customers on social media on your behalf. However, there’s the risk you’ll lose authenticity if customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers rather than the business owners all along.
You’ll lose your authenticity when customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers all along, and not those who really own and run the business.
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 in your restaurant.
- Get your customers engaged by having them vote on things like menu items, specialty dishes, as well as cocktails.
- You can also throw in contests and reward those who will share about your restaurant on their social network.
34. 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.
Kochie’s Business Builders tips to keep in mind when working with influencers to get customers.
- Focus on building relationships and ambassadors
- Don’t just look for celebrities
- Involve your influencer’s followers
- Trust the influencer
35. Create An Email Marketing Campaign
This is one of the most powerful tools you can use to both retain and attract customers. The quicker you become established, the better – your competitors are slowly picking up and applying the same email marketing techniques.
Here are the basic things you need to run an ideal email marketing campaign for your restaurant:
- Build and manage your contact list
- Think of a creative mailing strategy
- Create effective content and attention-grabbing calls to action
- Measure and analyse the results
36. Update Your Free And Paid Directory Listings
Aside from social media, don’t forget to regularly update your listings on free and paid directoriesregularly. 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.
37. Spruce Up Your Mobile Image
Millennials are an influential customer demographicand therefore should be important for your restaurant to attract. Technology is a constant part of their lives. When it comes to something simple like where to eat, the information millennials find online has a huge influence. Be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you want to have a presence on the platforms they visit.
38. Create A Website For Your Restaurant
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 a large number of potential customers
Set up a website for your restaurant as this will help convince customers to visit.
Clueless on how or where to start in building your restaurant’s website? Here’s a simple guide on 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. You can also pay a webmaster who will create a customised website for you.
39. Accept Online Orders And Offer Online Bookings
Customers who are too busy to go out prefer ordering online.
“The Free Restaurant Online Ordering system is completely free for restaurants to use. We have taken thousands of orders and most importantly saved Restaurants thousands of dollars in commission.” – James Eling, founder of marketing4restaurants.com
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 are surely going to remember you.
40. 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.
Here, they can search by location, price range, type of food, and the service offered. The key here is exposure.
41. Manage Your Customer 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 about you before.
So, make sure you 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.
42. Wine Tasting And Wine Specials
On quiet periods, you can approach local wineries to see if you can collaborate on your special wine event.
Another great idea from Nicole Kelly of Restaurant & Catering Association would be to use bin-ends as a special ‘wine-by-the-glass’ to move stock no longer listed. That way you will get a return on unused stock and offer diversity for your guests.
43. Theme Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner
Show people that your business is anything but boring. Throw theme parties whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make sure to rave about it, mentioning the event on both social media and in person. Make sure that there is always something going on in your business. Stay active and creative.
44. Offer An Instagram #FOTT (Food Of The Day)
You can also do this on your quiet days. Offer your customers specials each day and promote it with a creative name that’ll catch in your customers’ minds.
This is a good way to build curiosity – customers will be dying to return to see next days special!