While your favorite restaurant may look like they have it all together, there’s a good chance they went through the same struggles many proprietors face when they are just starting out
Think of your all-time favorite restaurant, the one place that is always at the top of your mind when given the option to dine out. The eatery that creates your main go-to dish that is consistently prepared to perfection every time you order it. Now think about why you have gravitated towards that restaurant all this time. What is it about that restaurant that you continue to rave about it to anyone looking for a dinner recommendation? Is it the broad and continuously delectable menu that you often have trouble choosing what to order because everything is just that good? Is it the immeasurable service that you receive during each visit by the friendly staff who automatically delivers your usual drink order to the table before you sit down? Or maybe it’s the personal greeting you often receive from the owner, making sure you are satisfied with your experience.
The things that you enjoy about your favorite restaurant are also the qualities that customers look for in their ideal eating place. While your favorite restaurant may look like they have it all together, there’s a good chance they went through the same struggles many proprietors face when they are just starting out. Below are the most common mistakes that first-time restaurateurs make and how to avoid them.
Whether you are new to the industry or you are on your fifth restaurant opening, you can agree that running a food and beverage establishment isn’t easy. It takes long hours, a constant presence, and a hands-on work ethic that can be tough for even the seasoned operator. One of the most common mistakes new business owners make is being an absentee owner. Being involved and aware with how your restaurant operates from the kitchen staff to the cleaning crew is a big part of why your favorite restaurant you imagined is so successful. Know who your employees are and what each one is responsible for during the day-to-day. Be knowledgeable about the process of how meals are served to the customers both in-house and take-out service. Mingle with your guests and let them know that you are there to provide them with a pleasant dining experience. By being present in the operation of your restaurant, you will better be able to understand what improvements need to be done to help your business grow.
Not Enough/Not Well-Trained Staff
Just because you are new to the hospitality business, don’t think that it’s going to take you months to get customers in the door. It’s okay to believe that there will be a line of people waiting outside on opening day for you to flip your “Closed” sign to “Open.” It is better to be overly prepared than to be blind sighted by crowds of hungry people and not enough staff or food to accommodate them. To avoid the headache, hire significantly more employees than you think you need from the get-go. You need to anticipate that some of those workers will bail out on you early on and some may not be the star employees they claimed to be during their interview.
When you do find a trusted group of workers, don’t expect everyone to put on their aprons and immediately know what to do. Even if they are not strangers to the food-service world, every restaurant operates differently, and they will still need guidance and direction in what needs to be done. By showing that you care about the business, your employees will want to help you succeed.
Again, let’s think back to your favorite restaurant. I’m sure that if it took you an hour to find parking each time you visited, or your GPS always got you there in a roundabout manner through the worst traffic zones, you would probably dine there less frequently. Even if your restaurant serves the best clam chowder in town, sometimes people don’t want to deal with the extra roadblocks to get there. That’s why choosing a good location is crucial, especially for a new restaurateur who may not have quite the following that celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri have.
While affordability is a huge factor, don’t settle on a location because the price tag is budget friendly. Do your research, canvass the area and notice some of the flaws that could be unattractive to your guests. There may be limited parking spaces and no nearby access to public transportation that could make traveling difficult for customers. Some residential areas may have an issue with noise complaints that could put a halt on your plans to open a nightclub in the area. Or maybe the high-end white tablecloth establishment you had in mind would not be very cost effective for the middle-class demographic that resides in the town. No matter how small the details, they are important to note before making any final decisions on where to envision your business to take off.
Many restaurant-owners go into business ill-prepared and underestimate the amount of effort it takes to become a well-known eatery, but that does not have to be you. By avoiding these common first-timer mistakes, people will be referring to your restaurant as their all-time favorite before you know it.
About the Author: Courtney Ciandella has been the sole Marketing liason for Bielat Santore & Company since 2013. She is also the conductor behind the Who’s Who in the Restaurant Industry and Restaurant Tip of the Month series.