4 Common Restaurant Challenges and Solutions

Learn how to overcome four common struggles of running a restaurant business.

7 min read

Running a restaurant business can be exciting and invigorating, but it doesn't come without its share of challenges. Fortunately, you don't have to come up with all of the answers yourself — here are four common challenges faced by restaurant owners, along with recommended solutions.

1. Lackluster service

A restaurant's success rises or falls with its service. Treating guests courteously and professionally can help you reap the rewards of repeat business (not to mention five-star Yelp reviews that attract new diners). Developing that loyal clientele is crucial for your restaurant's profitability — 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.

  • Familiarize the staff with the menu. Give servers tastings and talking points they can use to describe dishes or ingredients so that they can knowledgeably discuss them with diners.

  • Maintain a positive attitude. 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 remain unflappable if issues arise.

  • Listen to feedback from your staff. 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 you streamline operations in the front of the house.

2. An ineffective menu

Your menu serves as a statement of what customers can expect from your restaurant — and is key to securing a positive first impression. If your menu has a poorly designed layout, is overloaded with items, or uses an illegible font, diners may choose another restaurant over yours.

  • Layout, font, and color choices can make a big difference in creating an appetizing menu, so be sure to hire a graphic designer if your menu needs an overhaul. 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. Streamlining your menu makes it easier for diners to navigate, especially when placing delivery orders, and your staff will also benefit from simplified operations.

  • Be strategic about your menu layout. Consider displaying them on the menu to catch the customer's eye, either with a larger font or distinctive graphic element.

  • Optimize your menu pricing. When revamping the menu, be sure to take a hard look at your pricing. Conduct a menu engineering analysis to determine your most profitable and popular items — and considering removing low-margin dishes. It may be time to look at costs and see if prices need to be adjusted accordingly.

  • Regularly update your menu design. Once you've revamped your menus, periodically update them to keep things fresh and adapt to changing customer preferences. Be discard any in-store menus that are soiled or worn.

For more menu tips, download our free guide Cooking Up a Mouthwatering Menu.

3. Long wait times

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 in the front- and back-of-house plus a cohesive menu help maintain 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 include 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. DoorDash partners can track their busiest hours and other helpful analytics in the Merchant Portal.

  • Choose technology solutions that drive efficiency. Technology can help restaurants stay competitive in the digital age. 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. Contactless payment options help customers settle the bill faster. These solutions not only improve your operations, but help you align with today's consumer preferences.

4. Lack of customers

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 a ton of money on a giant billboard or flashy TV ads to drum up business — but you need to have a comprehensive marketing strategy.

  • Build an engaging social media presence. It's not enough to just 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 who leave 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.

  • Claim 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. 

Like a good recipe, successful restaurants are all about balance, where every ingredient works together to create a harmonious whole. When you take these steps to ensure your restaurant's food, service, staff, and operations are flowing smoothly, everything will click into place.


Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy

Content Lead

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