Thriving in an oversaturated restaurant industry

By Jacob Mancini

In the vast mosaic of Canada’s culinary scene, a rich palette of flavours, cultures, and restaurants merge to tantalize taste buds and ignite culinary business passions. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Yet, beneath the surface lies a pressing issue: we are oversaturated with restaurants. Subsequently, Canada finds itself at a crossroads – on one hand, we see more and more that restaurants are fighting to maintain or build their business operations, while on the other hand, the industry as a whole is grappling with the implications of a market flooded with dining establishments vying for consumer attention. When restaurateurs come to me for advice on how to stand out, my answer is simple: blend operational excellence with consumer-centric offerings. So, what does this mean?

 The 3 pillars

The foundation of any thriving establishment rests upon three pillars: efficiency, effectiveness, and financial prudence. But, at the core of this culinary conundrum lies the imperative of ensuring you have stable and robust business operations in place. Understandably, this becomes challenging with an inflated economy and competition surrounding you. When faced with cutthroat competition, the temptation to undergo drastic transformations often looms large. Our gut reaction is to change how we operate, because, obviously, something must be wrong. Such endeavours, while seemingly well-intentioned, may inadvertently compromise the very essence of a restaurant’s operations. The answer is not to react to the situation by adding more change in an already ever-changing economy, and environment. Rather, restaurants should respond to the situation. Listen to understand, evaluate the conditions of the business and the external environment, and then act. But, who and what should you be listening to?

Experience and convenience

In this noise of culinary choices, the path to distinction doesn’t lie in reactionary overhauls, but rather in a profound understanding of consumer preferences. Today’s diners are driven by two things: immersive dining experiences and convenience. While some seek to indulge in lavish adventures with friends captured on social media, others prioritize efficiency and seamless digital transactions. They want to buy their $9.00 frappé using seamless digital technology because the goal is to get in and out quickly, drink in hand. By discerning and responding to these nuanced preferences, restaurants can carve out their unique niche and emerge as beacons of culinary excellence amidst the crowded landscape.

In essence, the adage “you can’t be all things to all people” rings particularly true in Canada’s culinary arena. Rather than succumbing to the pressures of conformity, restaurants must embrace the diversity of consumer tastes and preferences. The dichotomy between experiential dining and convenience serves as a guiding principle, offering a path towards differentiation and successful business operations.

Ultimately, those who adapt to the evolving needs of consumers will ensure operational stability because it streamlines inventory management, kitchen workflows, and staff training, reducing costs and minimizing errors – to name a few benefits. This efficiency translates into smoother operations, faster service, and higher customer satisfaction., enabling restaurateurs to weather the storms of market volatility and the ever-evolving consumer demands with agility and precision.

Whether it’s upscale fine dining, casual comfort food, or quick and easy digital transactions, a clear focus will help restaurant owners resonate with their target market, drive sales, and build customer loyalty. Simply put, restaurants need to pick their lane and stay within it to excel.

As Assistant Vice President, Restaurant & Brewery Finance, at CWB Franchise Finance, Jacob Mancini oversees all aspects of the restaurant lending business, which provides financing for branded restaurant chains on both a corporate and franchisee level. Jacob specializes in portfolio and business development for both national and regional chains.