The Next Level In Taste


Secrets to a Successful Restaurant

People with a passion for good food are always interested in the next great restaurant.  But what makes a restaurant successful?  Sometimes it is about a kitschy new concept.  Most recently, for example, the food truck craze has taken over. Sometimes it’s about the chef and their sex appeal or unique inspiration. Either way, let’s face it most restaurants aren’t re-inventing the wheel, and the reality is that most restaurants fail within a year.  So what is the secret to a successful restaurant?  I argue that it is not a secret at all but rather four pieces of the pie (pun intended) 1.  good food, 2. good service, 3. Good management 4. The little things.

1. Good Food

This one goes without saying.  If you have a restaurant that is beautiful but has bad quality food, you may be able to create some buzz around the brand or the chef, but ultimately the restaurant is likely to fail.  Why is this?  Because successful restaurants have significant repeat business.  The value of a lifetime customer for a restaurant is not a concept that is often discussed, but it should be.  Most restauranteurs are not business people and as such they fail to understand many of the crucial concepts needed to run a successful company.  First and foremost, restaurant owners must understand that while creating a restaurant has an innate romantic appeal, the bottom line is this is a BUSINESS.  As in any business if you don’t provide value to your customer whether it is a great meal, or a great outfit, you will not survive.

2. Good Service

Food is only a part of the restaurant battle.  Service is just as important.  There is nothing more irritating then having to ask for things that by their very definition should be taken care of during the dining experience.  Having to wait too long to be seated, a missing place setting, water glasses not regularly re-filled, not offering a straw with a beverage, these are just a few of the distractions that will take away from a beautifully prepared meal.

The saying service with a smile still holds true as well.  I don’t care what kind of a day you have had, everyone has bad days, if you are in the service industry, check it at the door.  Your job is to provide an enjoyable overall experience to your diner and maybe even connect with them on a personal level.  I never understood waiters with an attitude, not only are you hurting the diner’s perception of the restaurant as a whole, but PS, servers who smile make 30% more in tips annually.

3. Good Management

Good service cannot happen without good management.  Managers should be there to make sure that details are being taken care of, that customers are happy, as well as dealing with the customer service issues that will inevitably arise in any service driven industry.  Little things make a big difference in the overall perception and success of a restaurant.  A manager that checks in with the tables adds a little extra care and personality and gives diners the sense that they are important.  Nothing serves the best interest of a restaurant better than if the diner gets their ego stroked during their dining experience.

Good managers will also ask real questions of both their servers and customers.  Making sure your team is working together is critical to the success of a restaurant.  While a good manager doesn’t let their employees walk all over them, they make servers feel important.  This will lessen shrinkage (employees stealing) and will have significant impact on the bottom line of the restaurant. And most restaurants have very slim margins to begin with.  Similarly, feedback from servers and kitchen staff will help a restaurant provide the best environment for their servers which will have a trickle-down effect for the diners.

A good manager knows that the customer is almost always right.  If there is an issue, it is the manager’s job to make sure that it is resolved appropriately.  Sending over a desert or appetizer, or comping the meal if things have really gone awry are important in creating repeat business, and can turn around a diner’s attitude.  The last impression a diner experiences is what they take away, make sure you leave a good taste in their mouth.

4. The Little Things

OK, maybe I’m a little bit sick, but I get excited about restaurant details.  For example, a restaurant that makes sure they have both white and black linens (a cheap white will wreak havoc on that little black dress).  A unique sendoff such as Italian candies or cookie will also really help in leaving a great last impression, but most importantly a simple thank you coupled with eye contact will leave the customer feeling satisfied on many levels (and bonus, it’s free!).

In today’s challenging environment, make sure that a customer’s dining experience is positive and unique.  By ensuring a satisfied customer, you can better your bottom line, and hopefully survive difficult economic times.  The proof is in the pudding…yum!

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