Eight ways to expand your restaurant

By Diane Chiasson

Is it time to expand your restaurant? You have a reliable customer base and a profitable ongoing restaurant operation. Instead of going through the hassles of looking for real estate, dealing with major construction and suffering the headaches of opening another branch, consider an expansion of your existing location. Try these eight other ways to expand your foodservice operation without increasing your overhead.

Add a cocktail bar

Consider adding a cocktail bar to give your customers a place to go to at night. Serve fun cocktails that pair well with light sandwiches or meals and other delectable items from your restaurant. Play interesting music, host theme nights or trivia nights and invite local bands to play at your restaurant.

Make your restaurant homey and comfortable

If you want to encourage your customers to stick around and enjoy a hot beverage or a glass of wine, consider replacing some of your tables and chairs with comfortable couches and armchairs. Create more of a “living room” atmosphere in your restaurant. Put out magazines or fill a bookshelf with books and board games. In the wintertime, consider placing an electric fireplace in the corner of your restaurant. If customers are comfortable in your restaurant, they will stay longer and inevitably order more food and beverages.

Use mirrors

Mirrors are a great way to create extra light, space and accents. Framed mirrors can create mock windows as well. Place mirrors around any food presentation areas to multiply the images of your fresh and home-cooked meals and make things appear more plentiful.

Get new fabric

Instead of buying new chairs and banquettes, consider reupholstering your existing furniture. Look for fabrics that are durable and easy to clean. Fabric stores often have blowout sales on last year’s styles. If you want your restaurant to be more eclectic, consider using fabric from the scrap bin. Many designer fabric stores have remnants that you can buy to use on your chairs, lampshades or anything else that needs a little sprucing up. If you have dining chairs with only the seats upholstered, you can even do the job yourself – just pop the seat out, stretch the new fabric over the seat and staple it into place.

Rent your space for private parties

For additional income, consider renting out the room for private events or put together a children’s birthday party package that includes the food, loot bags and birthday cake. To keep the kids entertained, give kids the option to make their own pizza or other kid-friendly foods and decorate their own cupcakes or cookies.

Play the right kind of music

Music is key in setting the right tone and atmosphere for your restaurant. By using music creatively, you can transport your customers to the place you want to take them. Whatever the mood you want to create in your restaurant, there’s the right soundtrack for it. If you have no knowledge about music or do not have the time to create playlists, consider subscribing to satellite radio or streaming music via a web or mobile app, such as Spotify or Pandora. Just remember that proper use of volume settings is very important to allow customers to have conversations without yelling over the music.

Put up branded umbrellas

Place colourful umbrellas branded with your logo or, if available, free umbrellas from your suppliers, and set up an outdoor patio area in front of your restaurant where customers can sit and enjoy their meal and a beverage during patio season.

Grow a Garden

Set up a few planters outside your restaurant and grow fresh herbs, tomatoes and lettuce – items that require minimal work. Feature your freshly-grown produce in your products like a fresh tomato pasta or sandwiches with loaves of herb bread. Nothing says “local” like something grown right outside your door!

About the author

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as the industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or [email protected], or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com.