Friday, January 20, 2017

Tips to Set Your Restaurant Apart

by Jenna Brown (Contributing Editor)

Restaurants are notoriously risky ventures. Business history is littered with countless examples of restaurants that had many positive traits, but ultimately failed. Poor management can be blamed for many of these, of course; but sometimes the establishments never managed to get and retain a consistent customer base. What are the weaknesses that take down restaurants that should otherwise be profitable? Why do people never come back, or never come to begin with, when the operation looks like it should be a winner? Let's examine some of the common places where restaurants fall short.

Menu Quality:
A dish must be more than simply a wonderful concept executed successfully by the chef who develops it. Staff must be able to duplicate it as many times as it's ordered. That requires more than just practice. It also calls for stable sources of consistent inputs, experienced kitchen staff to assemble it properly, and perhaps the most overlooked element: Quality equipment.

Restaurant equipment is the unsung hero of food preparation. Ovens with inconsistent temperatures, refrigerators that permit spoilage, and dishwashers that aren't up to par can do more to undermine a restaurant's reputation than anything else. Nobody wants a masterful entree served on a dirty dish. Investing in appropriate equipment is key to making a good first impression - and maintaining it - with customers.

Many people mistake the use of technology in a restaurant as an attempt to accelerate what should be a leisurely dining experience. They think of online carry-out pizza apps, mobile coupons, and other penny-pinching, time-squeezing measures as the stuff of fast food, not fine dining. And that's true about options like those, but there are ways to enhance sit-down meals with technology without forcing your evening into overdrive.

Making reservations is a perfect example. There is no value added to the dining experience when you must dig up restaurant phone numbers, endure countless busy signals, and spend long periods on hold to get a reservation. An online tool for making reservations will save you time without rushing the dining experience. Offering these options to customers will make you their preferred destination when time is short.

Capturing The "X" Factor:
Some restaurants just feel different. It's something we struggle to quantify, but the management and owners find a way to make the most of the things that no other restaurant has.

Local tie-ins are always a good idea. Whether it's produce is sourced from nearby farms or even just a unique name drawn from area historical lore, it always helps your bottom line when people feel like you're part of the community and not just another corporate entity that has come to town to exploit their wallets.

If you're the only restaurant of your type in the area, make sure people know first that unique isn't strange, and second that they can have a one-of-a-kind dining experience with you.

Hang photos showing your chef shopping at the farmers' market. Name your dishes after prominent local characters or distinctive area features. Whatever makes your restaurant different, identify it and display it proudly to your customers.

While many restaurants do fail each year, many of them don't have to. With a great overall concept executed with close attention to the details, you can do more than just survive. You can thrive.