Starting a restaurant may sound like an appealing idea. However, it takes more than a lot of good intentions and hard work to survive in this industry. Indeed, according to a study by Ohio State University, 6 in 10 restaurants fail within their first year. Failure, contrary to common belief, is not necessarily related to the quality of your food. While there is no denying that great food attracts great customers, this isn’t a golden rule for success. Many restaurants with lower food quality thrive, and many with talented chefs fail. In fact, food quality should be a given. Customers expect a restaurant to meet their standards, which means that, as the location varies, food expectations also vary. In other words, restaurants bringing a completely new food standard to a region are likely to struggle to meet their audience. This is true for both diners and Michelin-star restaurants.
Failure is often linked to a variety of factors, including:
- Audience outreach
- Sales facilitators
- Managing brand reputation on-site
So, as a small restaurant in a new location, what can you do to grow your business effectively and safely? It goes without saying, this already assumes that the restaurant provides food quality that meets local expectations, has skilled staff both in the kitchen and in customer-facing roles, and has sufficient funds to buy quality ingredients.
#1. Offer food delivery services
The pandemic has helped transform the restaurant experience. More and more patrons are looking for options to enjoy their favorite meal at home. They value the convenience of takeaway food. And restaurants need to realize that takeaway meals do not have to be synonymous with junk food.
On the contrary, small venues can use food delivery services to reach out to a broad audience. This enables them to serve more customers through the delivery option than they’d be able to host inside their venue. Besides, it can be a cost-effective way to grow revenues without growing the physical restaurant room.
#2. Install quality air conditioning
This might seem far-fetched, but there are many valid reasons for small restaurants to upgrade their HVAC solutions with a reputable air conditioning company. Indeed, in a small venue, the heat produced by the kitchen can affect the patrons’ comfort and dramatically raise the temperature inside the dining area.
Additionally, small venues are more likely to struggle with proper air ventilation. In smaller rooms, the air can rapidly feel stale and too hot. An HVAC unit can help reduce discomfort and keep your indoor air fresh. This will encourage patrons to visit.
#3. Utilize Instagram-friendly features
Food should, of course, be one of your main Instagram content. But with the rise of filters and quality photography, people are less likely to visit a restaurant just because the food photos look good. They expect more excitement out of venues. And this is where considering some smart Instagram strategies can be a game-changer.
It’s a good idea to contact your local influencers to partner on some posts. They can also give inspiration for Instagrammable features, such as:
- Mismatched chair and table colors
- An accent mural
- A mirror gallery
You might find that visitors are more likely to book a table if they know they can take an Insta shot in your restaurant.
#4. Provide quality washrooms
Nobody visits a restaurant without needing a toilet break. But did you know that your toilets could make or break the deal? Here are some patrons’ pet peeves when it comes to restaurants’ toilets:
- A single toilet for the entire restaurant
- Dirty cubicles
- No hand dryer or paper towel
- Door locks that are hard to close or open
- Small cubicle with little room for legs
- No accessibility-friendly toilets
- Lack of maintenance
Your customers will prefer washrooms that are comfortable, decorated, and contain everything they need. Small restaurants can build a reputation for quality and customer service excellence by designing their toilets for success. So, you want to invest in luxury hand soap and lotion. You should also make sure your customers can always dry their hands, whether you use disposable paper towels or electric hand dryers. Additional features, such as a basket filled with menstruation items for ladies, or chewing gums for fresh breath, can make a huge difference.
#5. Have an online presence
You may not be ready for customers to order your food online, but that doesn’t mean you should leave them in the dark when it comes to your menu and venue. Many customers like to compare restaurants before making their choices.
Therefore, you need to use your website smartly. This is the perfect opportunity to upload your seasonal menu with photos and full descriptions, so people know exactly what to expect.
#6. Accept diverse payment methods
What is the preferred payment method in the US? You may be tempted to say credit card, but this wouldn’t be entirely correct. A vast majority of patrons prefer to pay by card. However, depending on your restaurant’s location, you may attract a different audience group. Ideally, your restaurant should accept the following payment methods simultaneously:
- Credit or debit card
- Apple pay or Android equivalent
- Instant bank transfer
Many customers struggle with only one type of payment. For instance, many Asian restaurants value cash payments. This can put off other audience groups from trying your food. Similarly, customers who tend to order from Asian restaurants may feel trapped when they can only pay by card.
#7. Accommodate dietary requirements
Dietary requirements are an important part of the restaurant experience. With many allergies and food intolerance cases, it becomes essential for restaurants to adapt and design menus that can accommodate everyone.
Some of the most important allergies and dietary needs to consider:
- Nuts allergy
- Fish and seafood allergy
- Dairy intolerance
- Gluten intolerance
- Berries allergy (strawberry is a frequent one)
- Keto or other high protein diet
- Egg allergy
It is worth preparing alternative menus that can meet the needs of your customers.
Great food can be the starting point for a restaurant business. But growth is the result of brand reputation, audience outreach, and effective sales enablers. Make it easy for your customers to find you and fall in love with your service.