7 Surprisingly Common Problems That Restaurants Face
The food industry is a high-risk business proposition. You’ve got a lofty level of competition and a lot of details to perfect. According to an often quoted study, 60% of businesses fail in the first year. How do you ensure your restaurant’s success?
You can help increase your chance of success by understanding seven of the surprisingly common problems restaurants face and developing strategies to combat these issues.
Common Problem #1: The Menu
One of the most common problems restaurant owners face is the menu. A good menu is a balancing act. Do you have too many or too few menu items? Are your dishes priced appropriately? Does your menu have a coherent theme?
Keep your menu size in check. Instead of offering a five-page menu, consider offering a smaller number of dishes and doing them really well. People need to know what your restaurant is about – keep your menu aligned with your restaurant’s unique proposition.
Lacking focus, large menus take longer to order from. They also require more ingredients. The more items on your menu, the more ingredients you have to buy.
A too-large menu means longer ticket times. When you have too many different dishes cooking at the same time and not enough of the same items in the same pans, you’ll spend more time producing orders. Each table takes longer to serve, and you’ll turn them over at a slower rate.
Concentrate on the layout of your menu. Is it easily readable? Here are some tips for your restaurant menu:
- Group your most profitable items together.
- Don’t use dollar signs.
- Let your menu be a tour guide. This can be accomplished through photos and/or creative text. Consider hiring a copywriter to craft a compelling menu.
- Keep your menus clean – no grease and no food or water stains. Get rid of worn or torn menus.
- Update your menu and prices at least once a year.
- Build your menu around popular items.
- Make sure your staff is thoroughly trained and has memorized the menu.
Don’t forget to put your menu on your website and make sure it is easily accessible from a mobile phone.(tweet this)
Travelers using their mobile phones are more likely to visit your restaurant if they can see at a quick glance what you are offering.
Common Problem #2: Customer Service
First impressions are important. Poor customer service is often a deal breaker for customers. Your food may be outstanding, your table settings exquisite and your ambiance delightful, but if your service is bad, customers will remember.
The key to success is happy customers who want to return again and again. To ensure your success, your entire team – from management to hostess to wait staff and busboys – must be dedicated to your customers’ well-being. Every contact your staff makes with customers must be pleasant, welcoming and accommodating.
The way you handle your customers along every step of their dining experience has an impact on whether you’ll retain that customer. If they weren’t greeted when they walked in and when they left, they might mention it in an online review. As the digital arena continues to grow, online reviews are consistently important to your success.
Common Problem #3: A Unique Selling Point
Are you a bakery or a bar? A diner or romantic experience? Your customers need to know why they should eat at your restaurant and not at your competitor’s.
While a superb menu and excellent customer service are vital to your success, they are not a unique selling point. They are merely meeting the expectations of your customers. It is time to exceed them.
You need an original idea – something even better than great food and service. Come up with a unique reason for people to eat at your restaurant. Consider Sonic. They offer a nostalgic 50’s feeling. Burger King tells you, “You’ll have it your way.” Chipotle is known for integrity with its food.
A unique selling point offers your customers a feeling that enables them to remember you long after they are gone. Let your food, your service, and your unique selling point and identity make an emotional connection with your customers.
Common Problem #4: Management
Don’t overlook one of the most important pieces of the puzzle – management. You need to know how to analyze your business to make sure it runs profitably. Many small restaurants don’t pay attention to the following items as they manage the day-to-day operation of their restaurant:
- How many customers are you feeding each day? Break it down by mealtime.
- Keep track of ordered menu items. No one ordering the fish fillet? Maybe it’s time to take it off the menu.
- What are your most profitable menu items?
- What does it cost to make each menu item? What’s the profit margin?
- Do you have a budget for labor? Are you sticking to it?
- How much do you spend on labor compared to your restaurant sales?
- How much loss is involved in your inventory?
- Do you have sales goals? Are you meeting them?
- What is your profit and loss for each week you are open?
Common Problem #5: Hiring and Training Staff
Most successful restaurant owners know the importance of hiring and training the right employees. Yet, a common problem exists as many restaurants hire the wrong people and have a high turnover rate. An incompetent staff can also irreparably damage your current and future customer base.
When you put great emphasis on your staff, you’ll reduce costs over time and enhance your diners’ customer service experience. Pay extra attention to finding the perfect employees and don’t settle for a warm body. Once hired, train your staff and offer training manuals, checklists, goals and incentives.
Inspire your staff as well as your management team. Train them to address any situation, good or bad, that arises. Make sure they are enthusiastic and motivated to pursue your 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.
Common Problem #6: Marketing
Many owners fail to pay enough attention to marketing making this a common problem in the restaurant world. Following are a few areas to attend to now in order to avoid the pitfalls that not-enough marketing incurs:
- Formalize your brand standards. This includes mission statement, logo, graphics, guidelines, etc.
- Make a marketing plan. Daunting? Start small and work up to a six month or yearlong plan.
- Get a responsive website that looks great on desktop, tablet and mobile phone.
- Engage in social media and digital marketing.
- Start an email database.
- Create a customer loyalty program.
Common Problem #7: Capital
Finally, we come to an area where many restaurant entrepreneurs run into big problems. This looming problem is capital, and more specifically, a lack of it. Restaurant owners need enough capital to run their business so it can fully establish itself. Owners should plan to have at least enough money to run for one year. Additionally, restaurant owners need to have enough financial resources to cope with unexpected costs and increases.
Have you experienced another problem common to restaurants that isn’t listed here? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your problem below as well as the way(s) you solved the issue.