Running a restaurant can be exciting and invigorating, but it doesn’t come without its share of challenges. Like a good recipe, successful restaurants are all about balance, where every ingredient works together to create a harmonious whole. When a restaurant’s food, service, staff, and operations are flowing smoothly, everything clicks into place. But if even one element is out of whack, it can throw everything off (and create more stress for you). Fortunately, many restaurant issues have smart solutions to help your eatery thrive. Here are the four most common challenges faced by restaurant owners, along with recommended solutions.
The Struggle: Lackluster service
The Solution: A well-trained staff
A restaurant’s success rises or falls with the service experience. Treating customers courteously and professionally can help you reap the rewards of repeat business (not to mention five-star Yelp reviews). Developing that loyal clientele is crucial for your restaurant’s profitability: In fact, seven out of 10 people spend more money with companies that have excellent service. Here are a few tips to ensure your staff provides the best guest experience:
- Develop a training program for new employees. They can be mentored by a veteran staffer or job shadow to learn the ropes.
- Hold regular training sessions on areas you feel need fine tuning. Bussers can focus on properly clearing tables, and servers can practice different aspects of service etiquette.
- Use tasting sessions to familiarize the staff with the menu. Give them talking points they can use to describe dishes or ingredients so that they can knowledgeably discuss them with diners.
- Everyone a customer comes into contact with should have a positive attitude. Staff and management alike need to maintain positivity if a customer has a complaint. Role-play various scenarios where staff members hone that customer-first mindset and handle issues unflappable.
- Don’t just talk to your staff, but listen to them as well. Encourage them to tell you what they think is working in terms of service or where they see room for improvement. Their firsthand viewpoint can help streamline operations in the front of the house.
The Struggle: A messy menu
The Solution: A total redesign
Your menu serves as a statement of what your restaurant is all about—so, what does your menu say? If it’s poorly designed or overloaded with items, diners may have trouble finding what they’re looking for.
- Hire a graphic designer to overhaul the look and feel of the menu. Layout, font, and color choices can make a big difference. A professional can incorporate design concepts to give your menu a polished appearance.
- Edit, edit, edit. It may be time to pare a cumbersome menu down to its essentials. Get rid of dishes that aren’t big sellers, require intensive prep and labor, or have low profit margins. Tightening up the menu makes it easier for diners to navigate. And there are the added benefits of reducing costs, streamlining service, and making things easier on the kitchen staff.
- Be strategic about your menu listings. Are there entrees with higher profit margins? Consider displaying them on the menu to catch the customer’s eye, either with a larger font or distinctive graphic element.
- When revamping the menu, be sure to take a hard look at your pricing system. It may be time to look at costs and see if prices need to be realigned accordingly.
- Once you’ve got your new menus, periodically update them to keep things fresh, and discard any that are soiled or worn.
The Struggle: Long wait times
The Solution: Streamlined operations
When it comes to overall service, there are few things more unappetizing to diners than having to wait an excessively long time for their food. Keep your customers happy by running a tight ship. Top-notch, professional staff and a cohesive menu help with seamless operations. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep things running smoothly—and keep your customers happy.
- Invest in a digital point of sale (POS) system. These systems are adaptable to your specific needs and can transform how you do business. Fast-casual eateries can rely on them to run online orders and deliveries, while full-service restaurants may use them for reservations and seating management. It’s also a good idea to integrate your POS with your third-party delivery platforms so all of your orders arrive in the same centralized system. Some POS programs even give you the capability to track inventory or manage customer rewards programs. An intuitive POS system is the backbone to a well-run operation.
- Examine your staffing needs. Do you have enough cashiers during peak hours? Is the bus staff large enough to clear tables quickly so they turn over faster? Lag times in service may call for more employees during certain shifts.
- Turn to cutting-edge technology to help move things along. A mobile app allows customers to place online orders with ease so that their food is ready when they arrive at your restaurant. Prevent long lines with self-service kiosks or arm your staff with tablets to take orders from people who are waiting—these types of devices also have the advantage of connectivity, with orders sent right to the kitchen, as well as on-the-spot payment.
The Struggle: Lack of customers
The Solution: Get the word out
You know you have a great restaurant concept, but you’ve got to get people in the door. The good news is you don’t need to spend money on a giant billboard or flashy TV ads to drum up business—but you need to have a comprehensive marketing strategy.
- Get on social media today. It’s not enough to create a Facebook or Instagram page. You need to post regularly, highlighting specials, promotional offers, and events such as brunch and happy hour. Make sure to interact with your followers and people leaving comments on your pages; they’ll appreciate the responsiveness.
- Create a well-designed restaurant website that is mobile-friendly. One survey found that 77% of people decide to visit a restaurant after looking at its website. Often, they’ll be viewing your website on their smartphones—95% of all phone users have used their device for restaurant searches.
- Own your pages on review sites such as Yelp and Google My Business. Make sure all the information is correct, and include links to these pages on your website and social channels. Exceptional customer service extends to these sites—thank diners who leave great reviews, and gracefully acknowledge critical feedback. It shows customers you care about their input, and they’re more likely to return to your restaurant.