By Megan Prevost
Success in the restaurant industry often comes from a passionate pursuit to make things better, but what is your restaurant missing?
In an industry as volatile and unpredictable as this one, it’s important to stay on your toes, and pay attention to customer retention trends, customer satisfaction levels, and your competitors. No matter how well your restaurant is doing, there’s always room to make it better.
Being a restaurant owner typically means being a jack-of-all-trades, but even the savviest of entrepreneurs can get stumped trying to figure out their consumers’ behavior. It’s important to determine where your restaurant could use a boost and the best ways to implement beneficial new practices. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Ask for feedback
The best way to figure out what makes customers happy is to simply ask them. Place feedback cards on tables or in takeout orders and stay up to date on your Facebook, Google, and Yelp reviews. It’s also helpful to ask customers directly about their experience and how you can improve.
Many unhappy customers take their frustration out online to leave negative reviews, but unfortunately, there are many customers who won’t take the time to give you any feedback. Incentivizing customers to leave reviews or give feedback is a great first step toward making useful improvements.
Check out competitors
Today, the average consumer has lots of dining options. While no two restaurants are quite the same, many offer very similar services, foods, and experiences. This means that paying attention to your competition is important. What are other restaurants doing that you aren’t? From advertising to takeout operations to pricing, there are a variety of practices that your competitors might be using to achieve the upper hand.
Study restaurant trends
Even if your restaurant brand is centered around traditional, no-fuss foods, it’s important to stay in the know about the latest industry trends. Some restaurants might prosper by watching online food, recipe, or diet trends, while others might benefit from learning how consumers are changing their dining habits due to economic or social changes. Either way, keeping on top of industry trends will help your restaurant to get ahead.
Consider the basics
When thinking of ways to improve your restaurant, your mind might immediately go to fancy decorations, exciting events, or newer foods, but sometimes it’s worth going back to basics.
Are your tables, silverware, bathrooms, and windows sparkling clean? Is the quality of your food sufficient? Do your portions keep customers satisfied? Are your prices reasonable? Cleanliness, food quality, and the overall atmosphere of your restaurant are key to keeping a loyal customer base returning.
There are several avenues you can take to upgrade your restaurant. You might be able to get to the next level with help from some of the suggestions below.
A more exciting menu
The menu is what makes most restaurants go from good to great. Ensuring that your food is of the highest quality and is sold at a reasonable price point should be the first step when re-assessing your menus.
Next, think about things like modifications, specials, and variety. Do you offer enough exciting options for diners with allergies or restrictions? Having ample options for health-conscious, vegan, and gluten-free diets could help boost customer satisfaction. Likewise, introducing new specials or menu items from time to time might help things stay exciting for guests who return frequently – and those are the guests you want to make sure you retain.
Customer loyalty programs
Retaining customers (rather than simply focusing on gaining new customers) is the best way to grow and profit from your restaurant. Relying on a solid base of loyal regular customers is more efficient overall than spending money and time to attract crowds of new faces.
To help keep customers interested and wanting to return, consider implementing some sort of incentive or customer loyalty program. Doing so not only entices customers to return, but it strengthens their trust and relationships with your restaurant. Using punch cards or special loyalty discounts shows customers that you care about and appreciate their business.
Long wait times or complicated takeout processes might deter customers, sending them to your competition. Offering a seamless online ordering platform where guests can order and pay quickly, makes things easier for staff (who won’t have to stop what they’re doing to take phone orders) and customers overall.
When you add online ordering services directly to your website, you may also be able to partner with a third-party ordering service. Many services like Uber Eats and DoorDash help restaurants gain more exposure to new audiences and make online ordering super simple. Using these platforms is also a bonus if you don’t already have staff who can deliver food, they help take the work out of delivery service for you.
A stronger online presence
If your restaurant doesn’t have an easy-to-navigate website, you might be losing customers. Ensure your website is frequently updated and accurately portrays your hours, menu, and other pertinent business info.
Likewise, a solid social media presence could be where your restaurant is missing the mark. Many consumers use social media as a way to learn about and stay updated on your restaurant. If your social presence is minimal or inaccurate, customers might get deterred. Post regularly, keep things on-brand, and use social media to portray your restaurant as a must-visit destination!
A stronger restaurant staff
Hiring, training, and retaining a solid restaurant staff is no easy feat. However, your staff is one of the most important investments in the restaurant industry. They’re responsible for first impressions, wait times, and how customers feel when they visit.
Training staff to provide top-tier customer service should be a high priority for you. It’s important that your staff works together in an efficient, effective way. Make sure your managers are in control and have a positive relationship with the rest of your staff for optimal operations.
Fill in the gaps to go from good to great
No matter how great your restaurant already is, there’s always room for improvement. Get creative, think outside the box, and gather as much feedback as you can to take your restaurant to the next level!
Megan Prevost is a contributing writer for RestoBiz and a Content Manager for MustHaveMenus. Her work has also appeared in App Institute, Bar Business, Modern Restaurant Management, Small Business Currents, PMQ, FSR, The Daily Fandom, and FanSided.