The fact that everybody needs food and that this need occurs every day, makes running a food business fun, exciting, and so full of possibilities.
But just because food is a universal need doesn’t necessarily mean every food business is bound for success.
With so much competition in the food business industry today, it’ll all boil down to which restaurant serves the best food at the best price and at the best location possible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Create the Perfect Ambience
- Keeping an Eye on Your Supplies
- Put Your Finances In Order
- Making Them Go ‘Ooh!’ With Your Menu
- Improving Your Marketing Game
- Building Your Own A-Team
- Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back
- Cleanliness & Hygiene is Key to Customer’s Happiness
- Achieving your #GreenGoals
- Watching Your Waste
Create Your Restaurant Business Plan
Creativity and resourcefulness are key to making your restaurant business a success.
That is why Alsco stresses the importance of coming up with a solid restaurant business plan. Whether you are just about to start your food business venture or want to improve your existing business, a good plan is essential to success in such a competitive industry.
Alsco are experts in the industry. We help the restaurant and catering industry by providing clean and hygienic linen, food & glass wipes, catering workwear, various kinds of floor mats, continuous towel, first aid and washroom services.
But not just that! We’ve put together a list of great ideas that will help you when starting up and managing a sustainable restaurant business – increasing your profits and potentially turning your restaurant into an integral establishment in your local community.
Create The Perfect Ambience
1. Choose the best location
The location is a key factor to keep in mind when opening a restaurant.
Having the best location can be the decisive factor in the success of your enterprise. An ideal establishment would be located in a busy neighbourhood with easy access. Somewhere central which offers facilities such as parking or easy access to public transport is ideal.
You should choose a location that meets specific physical characteristics that can be adapted to the requirements of the concept and budget of your restaurant.
2. Décor and design matters
Michael Shen, restaurant reviewer and food photographer of ImStillHungry shares that service and décor are important factors in your customers’ minds. While both come second to food quality, it is these two aspects that can really seal the deal when it comes to making a memorable experience. This is how Michael Shen rates restaurants.
If you are going to need professional help with the design and decor of your restaurant, Alexandra Morris, a Sydney-based Commercial Interior Design, adds that it’s important to always appoint a great designer that has a portfolio of hospitality projects.
“Not only will they maximise the best use of your space, they will guide you through the procedures involved with council regulations as well as making sure the overall design meets Australian Standards and food codes.” Alexandra Morris
3. Plan before doing fit outs and buying equipment
Before you plan your kitchen and the equipment that you require to fit it out, make sure you have a design and cost analysis of your menu and style of food offering.
Peter Giannakis of www.thehospitalitycoach.net said:
“I often see new business owners who were sold equipment they just didn’t end up fully utilising. The style of food will also dictate the layout and workflow when designing your kitchen.”
4. Space constraints shouldn’t be a problem
If you think your space is not big enough, it’s okay. Having an available seating under 10 is still a great way to cut costs not just on your fit out but also on the long-term costs of running your restaurant.
Design your restaurant space to give it a stunning and welcoming atmosphere. Make up for the space constraints by offering a “takeaway” service. This will help you spend less on staff and reduce the need for table service and clean up.
5. Optimise your space
Observe and evaluate the areas of inefficiency in your space to identify where you need to make changes or renovations. Even small changes in your space can lead to a reduction in the number of staff members you need per shift without affecting the service speed or food quality.
Julia Gouye of CafeIdeas.com.au recently wrote about a concept called the “kitchen work triangle”. It combines design, functionality and efficiency, making it easier for restaurant owners to determine their kitchen layout.
Consider making your kitchen an ergonomic work area to reduce the distance and effort required for your staff to work effectively.
6. Put up a service well
This works best if you have a long bar. Having a service well on both sides will help servers get drinks easily.
7. Re-organise the kitchen
Make sure your kitchen is laid out so that your staff can work efficiently and even multitask – e.g. working on the fish station and the fryer at the same time.
8. Consider an open kitchen
Open kitchens have become a trend these days because customers love it when the cooking process is part of their dining experience. They appreciate being able to see how their meals are prepared. Aside from assuring your customers of your kitchen’s hygiene, this setting develops trust, creates atmosphere, and further adds value to your restaurant.
A friendly reminder from Alexandra Morris of Morris Selvatico Interior Designs – don’t put in an open kitchen if you don’t have any theatrically-interesting cooking to showcase. They might be in fashion at the moment, but there is nothing worse than seeing into an unclean or uninteresting kitchen.
9. Get Instagram-worthy tableware and table linens
Customers love sharing their food on social media. The more picture-perfect the presentation of your dishes are, the more likely it will get posted on Instagram or Facebook.
Aside from influencing the food tastes, nice tableware and table setting will also encourage customers to talk about you. Simply serve dishes that will excite your customers and they’ll be more than happy to share their experiences with their entire social networks.
Here are useful tips for buying restaurant tableware
10. Improve your lighting
According to Alexandra Morris of Morris Selvatico Interior Design, lighting is often overlooked by restaurant business owners – especially if they are on a budget.
Make sure you don’t make this mistake as it is one of the most important elements when designing a restaurant/café.
“Lighting sets the overall mood and atmosphere so don’t leave it to the last minute. Remember that less is more and this is certainly true when it comes to lighting – remember to always put lights on dimmers so that you have control over lighting levels through the day and night.” – Alexandra Morris of Morris Selvatico
11. Get stylish but functional chairs and tables
Mary Todd of Ke-zu Furniture shares her insights on the best chairs to use in a restaurant.
- Apart from the aesthetics, make sure the chairs are functionally suitable by considering the dimensions, materials, and finishes carefully.
- When considering chairs be mindful of the design from the back. That is what you actually see in the space.
- On a practical level chairs with a gap between seats and back allow for easier cleaning.
- Tables with central bases as opposed to legs provide greater versatility in table arrangement and allow people to get in and out of chairs with greater ease.
12. The psychology of colour
Niccolo Borgonovo of Protech Hospitality also shares a great business plan tip on using colours in a restaurant.
Colours play an important role in generating a hospitable environment in cafés or restaurants. The colour that is rarely seen in cafes is blue and the reason behind that lies in its ability to distract one’s mind away from food. On the other hand, colours like orange, red and green stimulate the appetite and increase cravings. This is why the right colour combination will not only help you maximise hospitability but will also generate customer satisfaction.
Keeping an Eye on Your Supplies
13. Order Wisely
This is the best way to control food costs. Keep an inventory that will tell you the details and quantities of supplies. Assessing your expenses to manage food costs is one key strategy to boost your bottom line. You can also order in bulk for certain items that are used in large quantity.
14. Count and weigh delivered supplies
Always count and weigh food when they are delivered to make sure that you are getting what you paid for.
15. Do a make-or-buy analysis
You may also want to reconsider your kitchen workload by coming up with a thorough make-or-buy analysis. Make a list of which items you can make from scratch and which ones you can just purchase prepared. Aside from cutting costs, this move can also ensure a higher quality of food that you serve your customers.
16. Talk to your suppliers
Communicating with your suppliers will help you get the best deals for your business. Don’t be shy to discuss with your suppliers about reducing your costs. It’s also okay to let them know that you are getting quotes from competitors.
17. Develop relationships with local farms
Products from local farmers are a lot fresher and often cheaper as the middle-man suppliers aren’t necessary.
Find a local farmer close to you via the localharvest.org.au
18. Be kitchen intelligent – understand how money is spent and where.
- Come up with regular reviews of menu costs to makes sure you are not selling your menu short.
- Conduct weekly stocktakes to determine food cost percentage so you know what changes you need to make.
- Set stock holding levels for particular days of the week. This will help prevent stock loss due to over-ordering.
- Setting preparation par levels over kitchen preparation is as important, this will ensure freshness of food products.
Put Your Finances In Order
19. Track your inventory and food cost
It may be best to track food costs on a daily basis so you know where they are each day. E.g. if you start noticing that food costs are 5% too high, you know that you’ve had a soft month and have been selling too much of this or probably not enough of that.
It also helps to look at what menu items are not selling so you know if you will need to make adjustments on ordering, dishes, and the menu to compensate for food costs.
Here’s a helpful video about how to calculate food cost percentage.
20. Menu item sales report
This report tells you what your customers like and will be very useful for your chefs and kitchen managers as it allows them to plan better daily specials and prepare only popular, best-selling dishes.
This is also the best way to find out what you need to place on your menu to increase sales, directly influencing what customers want to order and how much they are going to spend.
21. Hourly staff labour report
Having an hourly labour report will improve your work scheduling. Keep track of the total hours a staff worked, the category of his/her task, and part of the day. Since labour is one of the biggest costs in running a restaurant, having an hourly labour report will give you an idea when you will go over the budget of hours and if a staff member will have to go over his scheduled hours and work overtime hours.
22. Go easy on the discounts
Giving up on discounting will have an immediate effect on your bottom line. If you always offer discounts, what’s the point of having a regular retail price?
Discounting costs you money and it gives people the impression that your normal prices are a rip-off. Discounts will devalue your product.
Think about rug retailers that are always advertising massive discount sales on TV. How often do they say, for example, “up to 80% discount on all floor stock! Final clearance sale! Old stock has to be sold ASAP! Trouble is, people become oblivious to all these sales when they become the status quo. They cease having an impact. They are no longer believable.
Rather than discounting, simply offer more add-on value instead. You could consider something like “buy a coffee – get a free slice”, “Spend over $10 and get a free coffee”. Freebies are far more tangible and effective than a hard-to-prove discount.
“Selling is not about price. It’s all about value”
Making Them Go ‘Ooh!’ With Your Menu
23. Always mention the major ingredients
Mention the major ingredients in each dish. If they fit, use ethnic names as they add an authentic flair to the menu description.
24. Put a lot of thought into menu design
Your menu is a reflection of your restaurant. Its fonts, colours and layout should match your restaurant’s concept, location, and theme.
- Create something that will excite your guests, involve your regulars, it gives them some ownership.
- Use the specials board as your menu design drawing board
Another great tip for your restaurant business plan from Murray Wright of MurrayWright.com is to make sure your menus can be read and understood.
With in-house printing, we can squeeze a lot on a A4 paper – but in the evening with lights low, and the more mature customer having forgotten their reading glasses, (or not wanting to show they need them) things get hard. Make sure the typeface is big enough. With descriptions, be careful of technical terms – if people don’t understand, they won’t ask and just order the steak or schnitzel. Ask yourself why the term is needed – is it to genuinely inform the customer or make myself feel good?
25. Positioning items on a menu
Be smart when positioning items on your menu.
Murray Wright and Associates shares that people tend to remember the first and last items more easily when they read a list.
So make sure to put the dishes you want to sell the most (highest $ margin) first and last on the lists.
Here are tips and tricks for making the most of your restaurant menu by BuzztimeBusiness.
26. Rate your dishes on how well they sold
Another great idea from iChef is to rate each of your dishes and keep a tally. This will give you the pros and cons to their suitability for the menu.
27. Have a specialty menu on special occasions or holidays
You can put together a menu unique to special events, holidays or occasions.
This will allow you to keep control over your costs and inventory while expanding your meal selection.
28. Offer healthy options
Offer healthy options on your menu. Healthy food choices are becoming more important for customers’ restaurant choices, so make sure you have particularly healthy menu options available.
Offering meals with whole grains, vegetables, and fresh seafood on your menu is also another way to impress your customers with your varied range of dishes.
You don’t necessarily have to remove items from your menu. But you may want to consider adding low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie options such as lean meats, poultry and fish. Smaller meal portions at lower prices are also a great way to cut the calories and the costs for your clients.
Vanessa Cullen of Forward Thinking Design has some great insights to share on healthy food offerings:
“Wholefoods plant-based clean eating is in and here to stay, even with non-vegan or non-vegetarian consumers who are just seeking lighter, healthier and/or more sophisticated meals. Leading futurists forecast this as the top trend in the immediate and foreseeable future of food and it is being embraced by both the best chefs globally and small start-up ‘fast’ food companies popping up ahead of the curve.”
Vanessa also shared a few examples of healthy dishes:
- A vegan veggie burger or falafel wrap with option for gluten free bread
- Bringing in a vegan cheese option which allows you to easily convert many pizza and Mexican-style mains
- A tofu or lentil veg stir fry, hot pot, casserole or curry, etc.
- Raw vegan desserts and non-dairy based ice creams can easily be bought in from a growing range of suppliers
Having more options like these will add variety to your menu and appeal to a wider array of customers.
29. Trim down your menu
Track the sales of every item in your menu and remove those that aren’t selling well. Use containers and ingredients efficiently to minimise food spoilage while keeping food costs under control.
30. Keep a balanced menu
Analyse each item on your menu to figure out your major food costs and how you can make cuts. Make sure your menu has a balance of both low and high-cost items. Adjust these to meet food cost targets. Avoid high food cost items on slow months as much as possible.
Here are some tips from HowCast on how to design a menu.
31. Control portion size
When it comes to targeted food costs, the small things add up. Portion size is one of them.
Make sure that you are portioning everything in your meals at the proper weight. This makes sure you are ordering the right quantities, keeping costs down, and reduces the need to raise prices and potentially turn your business into a really profitable one.
Improving Your Marketing Game
32. Make the most of the Internet
Today, people turn to the Internet for nearly everything, including looking for great eating spots. Taking advantage of that is near-essential for your restaurant business.
So now’s the right time to make the most of all that the Internet has to offer. Create or improve your website or try online advertising. Creating a mailing list to send your customers regular deals, discounts or updates is an affordable way to keep them coming back.
33. Use Wi-Fi marketing platforms
Cody Hicks of Turnstyle shares how Wi-Fi marketing platforms can be surprisingly effective at helping restaurants build their email lists quickly.
You can get contact information from guests who sign-in to your Wi-Fi in exchange for a free wireless connection. This way, you can send out updates, messages, and coupons, giving them more reasons to keep visiting your restaurant.
34. Spread the word
“Word of Mouth” can be a very influential element that can drive purchase decisions. Consumers recommend a restaurant to their friends and family if they’ve had a great dining experience. If you have loyal customers, loyalty cards/membership will make them 70% more likely to spread the word about your business.
Here are 5 Principles of Word of Mouth Marketing:
35. Use SEO to grow your audience
Carlos Swinton-Lee of Bar & Restaurant Consultants shared that using SEO and digital marketing are still the most effective ways of growing your audience.
Claiming your Google places page early and keeping your site updated with fresh, relevant content will always help you rise to the top. Respond and encouraging reviews from Zomato, Trip Advisor and the other 3rd-party platforms will also keep you more current in the e-world of food. Likewise, using SEO tools on your website to target local searches will help you gain exposure on Google..
“Converting your audience to paying customers is a little more tricky and cannot be done with marketing alone, reputation will always spread far and wide so concentrating on a quality experience with great service and a fantastic product is paramount.” – Carlos Swinton-Lee
36. Make the most of Facebook
According to Carlos, Facebook is a great tool for highly targeted marketing. You can define your offer with variables such as age group, area, behaviour, and time that people are online. Particularly powerful is the fact that Facebook allows you to segment your marketing and open areas of your business up to other customers without damaging your core business.
The founder of Marketing4Restaurants.com, James Eling reminds us that:
“Remember, Facebook marketing for restaurants is not about how many Likes you have, it is about having the right objectives, and that is usually finding more new customers and turning them into repeat customers.”
37. Organise blogger events
Bloggers – potentially those with large online followings – can help you create a buzz around your business. Have a new menu? Set a menu launch and have food and lifestyle bloggers over to try your new offerings.
Aside from coming and experiencing your new menu, these bloggers would write about the whole experience on their blogs, share photos of the place and food on their Instagrams, or even tweet about your restaurant and your new menu.
38. Put up a food/recipe blog
Blogging about your restaurant can be a great way to spread the word and attract more customers
There are loads of ideas for blog posts. Recipes, events or stories about how you started, your staff, or behind the scenes in your restaurant are great starting points.
You can mix it up however you like. Give your blog an authentic voice that matches your brand personality and it’ll do wonders in marketing your business.
39. Start a birthday club
When a customer comes to celebrate his/her birthday in your restaurant, reward the birthday celebrant with a free meal. This is a huge opportunity to encourage other prospective customers to celebrate their birthday party at your restaurant with their friends and family.
You can also use your mailing list to invite whoever is celebrating their birthday in any given month to do it at your restaurant.
40. Set-up an email sales machine
The goal is to stay in your customers’ minds. Come up with creative ways to get customers to give their email addresses (like having a birthday club or setting up a blog)
You can use this email list to update customers on your latest menu additions, promos, blog posts, upcoming events, holiday specials, and a whole lot more.
41. Reward loyal customers
Rewards give your customers a good reason to keep coming back to your restaurant. Come up with a loyalty program installed on your Point of Sales (POS) System that will record what customers purchase so they can collect points and rewards.
If your customers know that they will get something in return for always eating at your place, they’ll not only keep coming back, they might invite their friends to visit your place, too.
In winning loyal customers, Nicole Kelly of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, says we can make guests feel special by remembering their birthdays (via Facebook) or their favourite dish or wine style – this will drive loyalty and repeat visitation.
A recent survey was made on 2000 businesses with different loyalty programs. 14 million visits from 1 million customers were recorded. According to the study, loyal customers (those who visited at least 10 times) only make up 20% of the total customers. However, that 20% drives a whopping 80% of the total revenue and 72% of total visits.
42. Be on social media
Restaurant businesses simply can’t afford to skip on social media. Make sure that you both engage with your customers and staff. You can share your staff’s photos at work, your special dishes, or any important event happening in your restaurant. Focus on appealing content that adds value
Use social media to drive visitation – photos of dishes should be posted daily – photos of staff having fun, mixing cocktails, receiving new or interesting stock, visiting the markets. – Nicole Kelly of Restaurant & Catering Association
Social media agencies can take care of engaging with your customers on social media on your behalf. However, there’s the risk you’ll lose authenticity if customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers rather than the business owners all along.
You’ll lose your authenticity when customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers all along, and not those who really own and run the business.
Here are a few helpful things to consider when joining social media:
- After creating a restaurant profile on the most popular social networks, don’t leave them dormant – stay active and post regularly.
- If you’re only starting up, you can still interact with your future customers before opening your restaurant.
- Keep people up-to-date on the latest in your restaurant.
- Get your customers engaged by having them vote on things like menu items, specialty dishes, as well as cocktails.
- You can also throw in contests and reward those who will share about your restaurant on their social network.
43. Work with influencers
Work with “Influencers” such as bloggers, Instagrammers, and Youtubers. Those with large followings on social media can serve as a great channel to reach your target customers. Come up with creative ways to get these “digital celebrities” to talk about you and your business on their social media channels.
Kochie’s Business Builders tips to keep in mind when working with influencers to get customers.
- Focus on building relationships and ambassadors
- Don’t just look for celebrities
- Involve your influencer’s followers
- Trust the influencer
44. Create an email marketing campaign
This is one of the most powerful tools you can use to both retain and attract customers. The quicker you become established, the better – your competitors are slowly picking up and applying the same email marketing techniques.
Here are the basic things you need to run an ideal email marketing campaign for your restaurant:
- Build and manage your contact list
- Think of a creative mailing strategy
- Create effective content and attention-grabbing calls to action
- Measure and analyse the results
45. Update your free and paid directory listings
Aside from social media, don’t forget to regularly update your listings on free and paid directories regularly. Directory listings like Zomato (UrbanSpoon), TripAdvisor, Yelp, AGFG, TrueLocal, FourSquare, TimeOut, PartyStar, Venuetohire, VenueMob, and TheHappiestHour help people when searching for a restaurant or café, making these an easy, low-effort way to attract more customers.
46. Spruce up your mobile image
Millennials are an influential customer demographic and therefore should be important for your restaurant to attract. Technology is a constant part of their lives. When it comes to something simple like where to eat, the information millennials find online has a huge influence. Be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you want to have a presence on the platforms they visit.
47. Create a website for your restaurant
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would you find a good restaurant online? ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with finding, well, nearly anything. If you don’t have a website, you are guaranteed to miss a large number of potential customers
Set up a website for your restaurant as this will help convince customers to visit.
Clueless on how or where to start in building your restaurant’s website? Here’s a simple guide on learning what important things your customers need to see on your website.
There are many free website templates available on the Internet that are tailored for restaurants. You can also pay a webmaster who will create a customised website for you.
48. Accept online orders and offer online bookings
Customers who are too busy to go out prefer ordering online.
“The Free Restaurant Online Ordering system is completely free for restaurants to use. We have taken thousands of orders and most importantly saved Restaurants thousands of dollars in commission.” – James Eling, founder of marketing4restaurants.com
Add a booking button to your website so that visitors can easily make reservations in just a few clicks. Unless you are open 24/7, then it’s best that you have an online booking system.
Having an online booking system will make everything easy, practical, and fast for your customers. Give them that kind of convenience and they are surely going to remember you.
49. Get listed on popular food guides
It’ll make it easier for your customers to find you, especially those who haven’t heard of you before.
Here, they can search by location, price range, type of food, and the service offered. The key here is exposure.
50. Manage your customer reviews
Online reviews are a critical factor for your customers. If your restaurant has a lot of good reviews, then you have a greater chance to attract new customers – customers who may not have even heard about you before.
So, make sure you stay active on these listing websites and keep building a good online reputation. Respond to negative reviews constructively and encourage positive reviews. Show them that their feedback matters to you, and they’re far more likely to trust and respect your business.
51. Wine tasting and wine specials
On quiet periods, you can approach local wineries to see if you can collaborate on your special wine event.
Another great idea from Nicole Kelly of Restaurant & Catering Association would be to use bin-ends as a special ‘wine-by-the-glass’ to move stock no longer listed. That way you will get a return on unused stock and offer diversity for your guests.
52. Theme breakfast, lunch or dinner
Show people that your business is anything but boring. Throw theme parties whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make sure to rave about it, mentioning the event on both social media and in person. Make sure that there is always something going on in your business. Stay active and creative.
53. Offer an Instagram #FOTT (Food Of The Day)
You can also do this on your quiet days. Offer your customers specials each day and promote it with a creative name that’ll catch in your customers’ minds.
This is a good way to build curiosity – customers will be dying to return to see next days special!
54. Set up or join food markets
Join food markets or food bazaars. This is a great way to get yourself out there and be discovered by a whole new demographic. If there are no food bazaars in your area, you can set one up yourself at your place.
You can then invite small homemade food businesses to join and sell their homemade food – creating more connections and attracting more customers in the process.
55. In-house promotions
Why not slip a promo flyer in with the bill? Or maybe have a table talker on the tables? How about a poster in front of your restaurant? The ideas are countless.
While a customer is already inside your cafe or restaurant, you should make the most of that time. By the time they come out, they already know all the great deals and delicious meals you offer.
56. Send it to the media
Never let that great new deal go unnoticed. Write a press release and send it to media outlets, local publications and bloggers who cover food, drink, lifestyle and the local area.
57. Master the art of upselling
Remind your staff that you are all a part of a business. An extra dessert or appetiser can make a positive impact on your profits. Upselling dishes is an effective way to encourage further spending from existing customers.
Observe and identify your top-performing staff and have them mentor the others to improve your sales further. However, we wary not to put too much pressure on your customers. Good upselling is almost undetectable.
Another great idea, shared by Nicole Kelly of Restaurant & Catering Association would be to have a staff competition on upselling. You can offer a bottle of wine (that you have received as bonus stock) as an incentive for the staff that sells the highest yield dish.
We are competitive by nature so this will keep things fun for your employees and drive additional sales.
58. Communicate and engage with your employees
It’s important that your employees feel that they are an integral part of your business. Because, in truth, they are one of the most critical elements to your success.
Make sure you have open communication with your staff. Let them know about your plans for the business, how the sales are doing, or how the bottom line is looking. You can have these short meetings before each shift.
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace” – those are the words of Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup.
59. Get those first-time customers to come back
Train your staff to look out for first-time customers and ask these people how they discovered your business. Make sure that they receive the perfect service from your crew as it could be your first and only chance to make a good first impression.
Make sure they are greeted with a smile and give them a discount coupon they can use on their next order.
60. Free meal
Raffle off a free meal by picking a lucky customer at random. This is an easy, affordable strategy; for the cost of one meal, you get more people coming in for the chance of winning the next free meal.
61. Live music
Keep your customers entertained and you’ll be sure to see them coming back for more. Entertainment like live acoustic music featuring local artists before will not only draw people in, it’ll also make them want to stick around and, potentially, invite more friends.
While contests can easily draw people in, make sure you create desirable contests that people will actually want to take part in. Come up with smart and creative games or contest ideas such as “Caption This” or “Name That Meal” contests, a Best Photo challenge, or anything that would encourage people to be creative and witty. The winner may get a free meal but everybody else is going to be paying!
63. Bring-Your-Own night
Have a bring-your-own night if you don’t serve alcohol. Simply extend your hours and provide glasses and you’re guaranteed to have people coming in your door all night.
64. Offer samples
Some customers are afraid to try something new. Offer them a free sample. You never know… if they love it, they just might purchase a full order!
65. Offer a take-home option
Take-home options can easily increase sales of sit-down restaurants. Come up with a take-home offer for lunch or dinner which could include an entree, side, and dessert and is packaged for travel with proper heating/serving instructions.
Building Your Own A-Team
66. Use an app or a system to create flexible schedules
Consider seasonality, holidays, marketing campaigns, and other changes in your business when creating schedules for your employees. Flexible schedules instead of fixed weekly ones help in keeping you within your budget. Additionally, this helps your employees achieve their work-life balance.
Sassco, a Hospitality POS developer shares:
67. Monitor requests for switching shifts
If it can’t be avoided, frequent switching of shifts should be monitored regularly. These requests can lead to employees working a lot of overtime hours which can quickly drain your budget.
68. Look for loyal employees
When hiring, look for candidates that have loyal work histories. Loyal employees who will stick can be trained as they will stay longer, making them worth investing time and money on.
69. Go for experienced candidates
Donald Cooper, an international management speaker and business coach
“Not hiring the right people carries a huge cost in missed opportunity, wasted training costs, inefficiency, destroyed morale, frustration and wasted time. And getting rid of ‘bad hires’ is costly and disruptive. ”
Also, consider a candidate’s work experience when hiring. Experienced employees will need less training and the time that could have been spent on training an inexperienced new employee can be better spent on focusing on guests and other important concerns.
70. Mix full-time & part-time employees and consider outsourcing
Balance both part-time and full-time employees. Part-time employees tend to be less committed and less reliable. Have them help with tasks that don’t require too much expertise and commitment instead – reducing the risks and stresses for your business.
You might also want to consider outsourcing. According to Murray Wright, who specialises in executive coaching and leadership development:
“You can basically outsource anything these days, from having the books done to doing simple errands. If you find yourself or people in the business spending time on a lot of non-core tasks – ask the question: Can someone else do this quicker and better and free us up to do what we are best at? If the answer is yes get online and find the help you need.”
71. Keep your employees healthy
Frequently ill employees will increase the amount of sick leave you pay that could’ve been saved. Keep your staff healthy by making sure they have a clean and germ-free environment to work in. Keep your commercial kitchen clean and sanitary at all times with an Alsco clean and hygienic tea towels and linen.
72. Avoid overstaffing
Always remember – even minimum wages add up quickly however small an expense a few employees may seem. Having too many staff on the floor might also mean your servers will receive less in tips, easily deflating their morale.
73. Focus on training and development
Any under-performing employee, new or a veteran, will cost you time and money as you have to improve these employees through training. The key to a successful business, after all, is to surround yourself will brilliant and talented people.
“Give them the training, resources and encouragement to do their job well and then empower them to do it. When we don’t train our staff properly, we’re telling them that how they perform isn’t important. And, if we don’t think it’s important, why should they?“ – Donald Cooper
Ben Carroll of Applejack Hospitality also shares that while recruitment strategies are important, it is working on culture, training, and development that guarantees staff retention, and staff retention means less time and money spent on recruitment.
On the training side of things we run a group internal cocktail competition, the 6 finalist battle it out at an event held at one of our venues with great prizes up for grabs (Trips to Melbourne, Booze etc). The cocktail bartenders work with the groups bars manager (Lachlan Sturrock) to help create the perfectly balanced drink whilst also having to name it and price it to ensure it has the correct GP. We run these comps quarterly and have invite down industry celebrity to assist with the judging.
The benefits of this competition are fantastic. So good, in fact, that we are looking at starting up something similar for our chefs, like a ‘mystery box’ competition. From the roots up there are training and development strategies in place for every position in our company.
74. Do regular staff reviews
You will always find something to improve on in your team by doing regular employee evaluation. Set management priorities and predetermined references to evaluate as this will help your team consistently deliver excellent service.
75. Provide task checklists to your staff
Checklists encourage people to start good habits. This would help your staff focus on their daily or weekly tasks, follow important restaurant procedures, and remain accountable.
76. Have regular staff meetings
Hold regular meetings with your staff to announce important things such as changes in the menu, new policies, and even small victories. Do it every day, pre-shift. Having regular huddles with your team will help reduce mistakes and power-up everyone’s motivation and efficiency.
77. Create a solid employee handbook or an employee training plan
This handbook or training plan will make it easier for you to evaluate individual employee performance. Steps or processes such as initial guest greeting up to handing them the check should be included in this handbook. Having a solid training plan will also help you get rid of unnecessary steps or inefficiency. Here’s a useful template you can follow when crafting a restaurant employee handbook from Toast.
78. Manage unwell employees
You can’t force sick employees to work. Aside from risking their health, you will also be risking your business. If a staff is showing signs such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or fever, send them home to get rest and make sure not to assign them to tasks that involve being in direct contact with food. Remind your employees that it’s essential to inform the management whenever they feel sick.
79. Create an employee recognition program
Celebrating small victories and sharing success stories will help foster camaraderie among your employees. It’ll bring the team together and make everyone feel a greater sense of job satisfaction.
Get lots of employee recognition ideas from this Pinterest board by Gregory Smith
Matt Gimpel, the owner of Temp Chefs Australia, has these 4 great tips to add:
80. Set clear expectations
Make it crystal clear what your staff can expect from you, and then what you expect from them in return…Do that and they will deliver what your customers expect from your establishment. – Matt Gimpel
81. Have mutual respect
Respect each team member and they will not only treat you with respect, but treat your customers that way too. – Matt Gimpel
82. Lead by example
Keep in mind that nothing and no one is below you. As their leader, you wouldn’t ask them to do something you wouldn’t do. The standard you walk past is the standard you set. – Matt Gimpel
83. Catch your staff doing something right
Nothing breeds success like success. Influence more positive behaviour by positive reinforcement of even the smallest examples of great customer service. – Matt Gimpel
84. Have your emotions under control
A great tip from Eric Cacciatore of Restaurant Unstoppable.
Don’t let your emotions, specifically anger, get the best of you. Understand that you have control over your emotions. When you feel your emotions welling, “snip it”, like Jerry Posner says in episode 273. Give people the benefit of the doubt until you fully have your emotions under control. Then as Stephen R Covey says, “Seek to understand, then be understood.”
An animated book review of Stephen Covey’s “Habit 5 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Seek first to understand, then be understood”
WAYS TO KEEP CUSTOMERS COMING BACK
85. Treat solo diners with care
Make sure single diners don’t feel uncomfortable dining alone at your restaurant. Be particularly welcoming with these types of customers. Avoid asking if they’re waiting for someone else and never act surprised that they aren’t. This can make solo diners uncomfortable.
86. Quick service
Nothing irks customers more than slow service. Make sure your staff provides not just personalised service, but quick service.
Improving operational efficiency in every part of your business. You cannot be price competitive and profitable without developing world-class operational efficiency …even in a small business. – Donald Cooper
87. Offer FREE wi-fi connection
Today, diners are rarely without their smartphones, tablets, or computers. They will appreciate it if they can use their gadgets while they eat, especially those who are waiting for important work-related emails and notifications.
88. Go the extra mile for single diners
It wouldn’t cost you too much to try to give single diners a little more TLC. Adding small extras, for example, is a good way to make them feel a little more welcome and special.
After all, these little favours are insignificant when you consider the volume of customers you serve. Plus, that single diner you just went the extra mile for will want to come back. Who knows – they might even bring friends next time!
89. Be aware of your business score
Always check sites like TripAdvisor or TheFork as these kinds of sites are where both satisfied and unsatisfied customers leave their feedback about restaurants they’ve previously dined in.
Being aware of your business score on these sites will help you determine whether your prices match the quality of your offering.
Do check the “Value for money” section as this is where restaurants generally get good scores.
If you have a bad score, that means customers have not been completely satisfied with their dining experience and may even feel like they have been ripped off. This is also a sign that you might need to adjust your prices.
My scoring system is really tailored to what I value in a restaurant. Some may value the food even more, or the service, or some other intangible aspect. Scores are in the end just numbers, and shouldn’t be too heavily-relied upon. In the end, it’s really a way to help me categorise and rank the many places I visit. I think any consumer should reasonably expect at a first – good food, followed by service. Any interesting ambiance/décor aspect is tertiary and should not outweigh what matters most. In other words, a fancy fitout won’t save a restaurant serving mediocre food or providing subpar service. – Michael Shen, the restaurant reviewer of ImStillHungry.net
90. Do a satisfaction survey
It always helps to understand your restaurant’s weaknesses. Don’t worry, every restaurant – at one point or another – experiences these.
This is where conducting customer satisfaction surveys help. You will learn what your customers focus on most. And if you do understand these concerns, you’ll know exactly where to improve.
You can send a satisfaction survey to customers via email after they leave the restaurant – or, perhaps send those out through your monthly email campaigns.
91. Ask about your customer’s dining experience
Another way you can get feedback from your customers is by asking them directly about their dining experience. You can do this in a natural and non-commercial conversation.
You can also give away cards or flyers with a list of websites they can leave their reviews on your restaurant. Check your customers’ reviews on a daily basis on the internet, Facebook, social networking accounts and especially on specialised sites.
92. Analyse your competition
Get to know your competitors and look at their approaches. This way, you’ll discover exactly how to learn from them and, more importantly, differentiate yourself as a business.
93. Create a unique selling proposition (USP)
Shared by Eric Cacciatore of Restaurant Unstoppable, come up with a unique selling proposition or what Seth Godin calls a “Purple Cow”. Something that is truly unique and special that you have to offer your local community.
The best brands create USPs that are intangible; things like relatable core values, missions and visions. Appeal to the consumer’s mind and heart. Ask, “how will this make the guest feel?” or “how will the customer think they are being perceived by society when they align themselves with your restaurant’s brand?”
94. Stand out
When consumers choose one restaurant over another, it’s usually because that restaurant has something unique to offer. Be that restaurant that consumers are going to choose every time:
- Provide the best possible service
- Offer added value, get creative
- Perhaps specialise in a type of traditional cooking from a particular country
- Or pick a theme for your restaurant
A unique offering, a lot of hype build-up (I’m a sucker for following trends), or restaurants whose cuisines are aligned with my preferences (e.g. Japanese) – Michael Shen of ImStillHungry.net
Make sure that guests leave the restaurant with a memorable dining experience. This will not only keep them coming back, this will also give you a competitive edge over your rivals.
Another great tip on standing out from Murray Wright is to come up with a signature item. It can be a dish, drink, décor, service approach, uniforms or a combination all of these things.
Be famous for one thing that gets people so excited that they talk about it to their friends and recommend you or if they see it being served in the restaurant they want to order it. (If a dish make it a high dollar contribution item!)
Cleanliness & Hygiene is Key to Customer’s Happiness
95. Steam clean the cooker hood
Grease and bacteria can build up on the cooker hood over time. The best way to keep it clean and hygienic is through a steam cleaning method. Keep in mind that the wire mesh underneath should be cleaned with warm, soapy water.
You can also use the same cleaning method for extractor fans that have a removable mesh.
For those extraction fans that use paper filters to soak up grease and grime, the best thing to do is to clean the mesh and replace the old filter.
Don’t forget to soak and scrub all washable items with non-abrasive brushes to avoid damaging the material.
96. Polish all stainless steel surfaces
Avoid damaging stainless steel exteriors by using microfiber cloths when cleaning and polishing. It is also best to use high-quality commercial cleaning products for a better finish.
Here’s a handy guide to cleaning stainless steel surfaces from Hospitality Design.
97. Keep carpets, curtains, and linen clean and stain-free
Always check your carpets, curtains, and linen for obvious and unsightly wear and tear.
- Stains can be removed by high-pressure cleaning, heat and steam extraction
- Vacuum carpets regularly to keep them free of debris such as dirt and dust that could tangle in the carpet fibres
- Make sure all curtains and window dressings are properly laundered
Alsco offers managed floor mat rental services for your restaurants so you don’t get to worry about cleaning dirty mats. Mats are cleaned and maintained regularly.
98. Clean the fridge and freezer regularly
When cleaning, make sure to remove everything from fridges and freezers and check every item’s expiration dates.
Use multipurpose cleaners and damp cloth to clean and defrost shelves where necessary using a multipurpose cleaner and damp cloth.
Only a damp cloth is needed to wipe down the exterior of these appliances for a perfect finish.
99. Staff Uniforms
Customers notice how your staff present themselves. Make sure they don’t only have nice uniforms to wear, but also that these uniforms are always kept looking neat and professional.
100. Get rid of grease in your fryer and grill
Grease that builds up on your fryers and grills can become a fire hazard. Clean the baskets, filters, hangers and tank racks separately and keep the interior surface of your fryer and grill free of signs of oil by wiping it with paper towels and a wet sponge soaked in warm soapy water.
You may also soak your grills in soapy water for 24 hours to remove hardened deposits and blackened carbon.
101. Keep stockroom and storage organised
Regularly check your stockroom shelves to see if items have reached or are nearing their expiration dates, if containers are worn out, or have cracked lids, and broken labelling.
102. Clean your washroom and toilet every hour
Customers remember restaurants with clean washrooms and make a point not to forget those that aren’t. You want them to remember yours as one that is up to par with hygiene standards.
Clean your washroom and toilet every hour. Never miss important ‘touch points’ like handles, switches, and faucets as these are the areas that are most prone to the spread of bacteria.
- Any fixture or fitting that people touch, including on and off buttons of hand dryers, should be thoroughly cleaned with disposable disinfectant wipes to avoid further spreading the germs around.
- Also check fixtures, taps, and toilet seats for damages that may need repairs or replacement.
- Get rid of those loose toilet seats as they are considered as health hazards, fix broken door locks, brush the grout between tiles with a hard-bristled grout brush, and do something about those cracked mirrors and tiles as they can house thousands of germs too.
Use Fresh & Clean’s managed washroom service to make your washroom maintenance effortless. No need to constantly worry about refilling soap dispensers, bad odour, and overflowing sanitary bins.
103. Powerwash and prettify your exteriors
A restaurant that looks clean outside gives customers a good impression of what’s inside. Keep the outside area of your restaurant clean as it will make a serious impact on passers-by.
The best way to get rid of dirt from walkways, pathways and exterior walls is to blast them clean with a power/pressure washer. Don’t forget to clean exterior doors and repaint them if they look worn out.
- If you have space, outdoor and garden furniture that can endure adverse weather conditions make great investments
- Artificial plants, flowers, and hanging baskets will also cost you less
- Add patio benches or welcome planters to attract more people into your restaurant.
104. Wheelie bins need regular cleaning too
Regularly clean your bins, inside and out. You may also want to power wash them to ward off unwelcome pests and keep them looking fresh. Make sure your bins do not collect water as this attracts rats and other animals. It is best to hide your bins from view with a bin store or secure them with fences.
105. Use the correct method to wash hands
Regular hand washing should be a habit in your restaurant. Make it 100% sure that your employees understand the importance of keeping their hands clean and sanitised at all times.
Put up reminder posters in the kitchen on when they need to have clean hands:
- Before, after, and while preparing cooked food
- When handling meat, uncooked eggs, seafood, and poultry
- After they go to the toilet, sneeze, blow their nose, touch garbage
- After assisting someone who is sick
Or maybe reminders on how to properly wash hands, in case they forget. Here are free, print-ready hand washing posters that you can post in your kitchen and in your washrooms.
More hand washing and hygiene posters here.
106. Follow HACCP principles
Make sure that everyone in your restaurant is aware of the HACCP food safety management system principles and the practices in keeping and preparing food to prevent the growth and spreading of bacteria.
Not only will these practices help ensure that the food you serve is kept sanitary, they will also minimise the risk of spoilage and cross contamination of food while in the storage, or during preparation and cooking.
107. Clean surfaces and utensils
After use, every single utensil used and every surface in the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned. Use hot, soapy water and disposable paper towels to clean up spills and if you are going to be using cloths on other surfaces, make sure these are washed using a hot cycle on a washing machine.
108. Sanitise smaller kitchen items and utensils
Consider investing in a commercial dishwasher that will help you sanitise utensils and other small kitchen items. When it comes to eliminating bacteria, high temperatures are necessary.
109. Cleaning commercial kitchen floors
Grime and bacteria mostly build up on kitchen floors. That’s why you should make sure all kitchen floors are mopped regularly. If you are going to be mopping the floors regularly, you might want to apply a non-slip coating to prevent staff from slipping when moving about.
110. Improve your ‘mat game’
As basic of a necessity they may seem, mats play huge and important roles in every restaurant. Invest in quality mats that prevent your staff from slipping, prevent dirt from outside get inside the restaurant when customers come in, or prevent atigue or exhaustion for staff who need to stand for long periods of time.
111. Have a regular cleaning schedule
Make sure you have a regular cleaning schedule. Also, encourage each employee to never leave their assigned station in the kitchen dirty. For best results, you might want to consider hiring Alsco’s Food and Beverage linen service to deliver clean and hygienic linen for your restaurant every single day. We understand cleaning and will get the job done right.
Achieving your #GreenGoals
112. Conserve water
Start a green initiative in your restaurant and avoid wasting water. Simple habit changes such as running the dishwasher only when it is completely full, loosening dried food by soaking rather than rinsing and installing low-flow faucets and toilets. All of these can help cut down on water, soap and energy – saving your business money.
113. Enough with the plastic
It’s about time to stop using plastic materials in restaurants. Lots of restaurants are doing the same – and for a good reason. This ‘green’ move does not just save the environment, it also helps restaurants save on garbage expenses.
Paul Kuck of sustainablefoodservice.com shares a great way to use silverware instead of plastic:
“Actually something I used to do with our local Alsco services is collect the silverware that gets into the bags of dirty linens and sorted out at your laundry sites. We would pull out our silverware, then use the rest on festivals where we had a booth so we used reusable silverware rather than plastic.
I’ve also sent several people to Alsco and linen services when they’ve wanted to get reusable silverware at their schools. Donating silverware to schools, soup kitchens or the like would be an awesome program for you to start company-wide. Over the years we collected buckets and buckets – many hundreds of pounds of silverware from one single site.
Before we collected it, the silverware was kept a while, then thrown out because none of the restaurants came to sort through and collect theirs.”
114. Switch to glass
Instead of using disposable plates, cups, and utensils, why don’t you consider investing in glass? It lasts longer, makes a better impression, and helps preserve the environment.
115. Get your staff involved in your green initiative
For your green initiative to succeed, everyone should be involved. Educate your staff about the importance of sorting out recyclable items. Tell them to turn off lights when they’re not needed. Encourage them to bring in their own take-home containers instead of using disposable restaurant packaging.
Get inspiration on how your restaurants can ‘go green’ from Concrete Playground’s list of sustainable restaurants and bars.
116. Start using energy efficient lighting
Make the big switch to energy efficient light bulbs in your restaurant. You will not only save up to $22 per bulb per year, but this wise move can also chip away at your electricity bills.
117. Don’t need lights yet? Keep them off
Make it a habit to keep lights off when they’re not needed. You might also want to try intelligent lighting that automatically turns lights off when an area is bright enough and doesn’t need to be artificially lit.
118. Turn down the thermostat
During the colder months, turning your thermostat down by a degree or two can make a big difference in your energy costs. If going from 72 to 70 is still comfortable, there aren’t any reasons not to do this.
You can also control the heating with a thermostat timer that will warm the place up just in time for opening, and cool down on closing time.
119. Wood-burning stove, maybe?
You’ll be spending a sizeable amount of your energy bill on heating during the colder season and going for a wood-burning stove just might work wonders for your business. Aside from being cost-efficient, they will give your restaurant a cosy look and feel that customers will love.
120. Drinks just need to be cool, not frozen
Your restaurant kitchen will be needing refrigerators to keep food and beverage cool. Use your fridge efficiently by only keeping the drinks cool as they don’t really need to be frozen.
121. Go for a fridge update
Newer models of refrigerators use less energy than older models, so a fridge update could easily save you money over the long run. Knowing how to maintain your commercial refrigerators will keep them running efficiently now – and for years to come and will save you money in unnecessary repair costs and downtime.
122. Invest in an efficient HVAC system
It would be smarter to invest in an efficient HVAC system that will consume less energy to heat or cool down a room. This can save on your operational budget and you wouldn’t have to disappoint customers by not being able to cool the room due to energy budgets.
Here’s a video from Coolairaustralia.com with different energy saving HVAC solutions that you can consider for your restaurants.
123. Go for ‘energy efficient’ everything
Energy efficient appliances may cost more but they definitely consume less. In just a year or two, the appliance pays for itself from all the energy savings.
Paul Kuck of sustainablefoodservice.com shares that:
It’s great to purchase Energy Star rated equipment that will reduce the long term cost of your restaurant. Items like refrigeration, ice machines and ovens can be found for the same up-front cost as standard efficiency units.
124. Conduct an energy audit
Do regular checks on everything that uses electricity, including those that use gas or other fuel. An energy audit will help you see clearly where you are spending the most money and where you are overspending, allowing you to make adjustments and lower your overall expenses.
Watching Your Waste
125. Be creative with the scraps
Educate your employees on the importance of not wasting food and encourage them to use as much of each ingredient as possible.
126. Manage Kitchen Waste and Spoilage
Too much waste in the kitchen means higher food costs. That’s why it’s important to always remind your employees of the common practices that prevent food waste:
- Store and handle food properly
- Accurately measure portion sizes
- Avoid preparing large quantities of food in advance
- Avoid purchasing too much inventory.
What can we do about food waste? Fresh facts for restaurant, catering and hospitality staff.
Train and monitor your kitchen staff. Pay attention to what appears in the kitchen’s trash cans so you know what’s being wasted. This will help you keep your food costs under control.
Now that you have all these great tips and ideas to choose from, coming up with a strong business plan for your restaurant shouldn’t feel like a total burden anymore!
We bet you’ve even thought of your own great ideas as you were going through this list, right? The key is to be one with your business – to know exactly what it is, inside and out, so you know exactly what your customers would love and remember about your restaurant.
Come to think of it, there really are countless of great restaurant business ideas out there just waiting to be discovered! This article was just meant to open the door for you and give you a little push! Again, with creativity, resourcefulness, and being wise with every decision you make, you’ll be set to create a great business plan for your restaurant