7 Major Mistakes That Could Sink Your Restaurant
It’s a sad fact that the failure rate in the restaurant business is huge. Around 60% of openings go under within the first three years, while only a quarter are left standing after five. This is partly just the nature of the beast – it’s a tough, competitive sector, and there isn’t always much logic in which businesses surge to success and which die a speedy death.
However, avoiding these common restaurant-killing mistakes can help ensure you’re still around serving great food when your competitors have long closed their kitchens down.
Following the Herd
Having delicious food is rarely enough – after all, that’s the minimum that customers should expect from a competent kitchen. To make your mark on the dining scene, you need to offer something different. There must be a reason for customers to chose your restaurant over the competition.
What’s your angle? Maybe it’s locally sourced fresh ingredients, or maybe your steaks really are the biggest and best in town. Whichever selling point you decide on, you need to claim a space and make it your own.
Lack of Focus
Of course, you need to provide a range of dishes to suit most tastes, but if you try to cram too much onto the menu you risk courting mediocrity rather than excellence. Also, to keep an extensive menu available you’ll need to stock a huge inventory, with all the associated waste and expense.
Lastly, too much choice can bewilder a customer. Confusion isn’t a good feeling that will keep people coming back through your doors. Instead, pick a sensible selection of exciting meals and concentrate on making them the best examples around.
Wrong Meal Priorities
Your chef may be the finest in the land, but when the plate is put in front of the customer, they don’t want to be wowed by technique and fussy artistry – they want to eat well. There’s an old saying in restaurant circles that French food is all about the chef, while Italian food is all about the ingredients. This may be a cliche but it contains more than a grain of truth. Make sure your priority is the customer and their enjoyment of their meal – everything else, especially professional ego, is secondary.
Slipshod Quality Control
Everyone has off days, but you can’t let any substandard performance affect the customers’ experience. Every dish should be as near perfect as possible when it’s sent out from the pass. It should be a matter of pride that the customer gets a consistently great experience every time they visit your establishment, no matter which staff are on the rotation or what problems may have cropped up during service.
If something does happen to go wrong, always overcompensate when putting the problem right. Don’t just replace a faulty dish, but also remove it from the bill, and gift extras such as a complimentary drink on top. Even if this means writing off your profit for that meal, the cost of leaving a customer unhappy will be far greater in the long wrong.
Poor Business Management
A restaurant may on the surface be concerned with great food and service, but it needs to be a well-oiled business machine underneath. Considerations such as invoicing, cash flow, economical sourcing, insurance and so on may not be as exciting as the action in the kitchen, but they’re absolutely essential if you want your restaurant business to survive. A good head chef will maintain iron control over kitchen expenses and inventory control, but you need a competent business manager to oversee the operation as a whole.
An excellent restaurant will always benefit from the word-of-mouth effect, but this won’t usually be enough to ensure full tables, especially in the early days. Consider hiring an outside agency to take care of marketing, as this will likely be more cost-effective and successful than your own efforts.
This is especially important in the digital world. Online marketing is a hugely complicated area which requires expertise to exploit, yet it’s impossible to ignore when so many diners choose their destinations online.
Not Investing in Staff
Finally, memorable dining is about the entire experience, not just the food on the plate, and it takes good staff to deliver this. Investment in your kitchen brigade and waitstaff is essential. If you hire good people, then pay and treat them well. Their contentment and enthusiasm will spread to the customers. In any business it’s vital to cut costs where you can, but your roster of staff is definitely not the first place to look for savings.
The restaurant business is a cut-throat one, and to be successful your operation needs to be firing on all cylinders. While serving delicious food at an attractive price is a basic restaurant requirement, making these other mistakes could doom even the most talented and visionary kitchen to failure well within those crucial first five years.
HB Hot Rods and Hogs was started by Ed Syer in the back of his auto repair shop in Huntington Beach where Ed was building