Owning a restaurant requires a high level of responsibility and a strong sense of business.  Like any organization, there are multiple aspects from accounting to operations.  It’s imperative to frequently evaluate the status of each facet and make enhancements to ensure the overall success of the business.

People visit restaurants for the atmosphere, food, and staff.  If any of these aspects are sub-par, loyal customers tend to take business elsewhere.  What’s the best way to maintain and build your clientele? Here are seven areas of your restaurant you could always improve.

Brand Equity

When evaluating your restaurant for areas of improvement, it is best to have assistance from a consultant with a neutral perspective and experience.  Restaurant consulting is one of the best ways to evaluate your brand equity.

How powerful is your brand?  Do people associate your brand with quality food and top-notch customer service?  

Brands do not build themselves.  As a restauranteur, you frequently need to work on building your brand.  Much of this is done through marketing and customer experiences. It’s important to understand how marketing campaigns impact your restaurant.

Does the marketing appeal to your targeted demographic?  Are people talking about marketing pieces or sharing them with friends and family on social media?  How people speak about your business directly reflects your brand equity within the community.

Today’s society heavily depends on reviews and recommendations.  One bad review, especially in the early years, can negatively impact the restaurant.  Take the time to frequently understand how your business stands with the public and work to improve that perspective.

Staff Morale

Improving the morale of staff is a skill within itself.  How is it possible to motivate people to improve their performance, attendance, and attitude consistently?  Shouldn’t they do their job just because they’re getting paid?

Staff members are a direct reflection of your brand and your restaurant.  They need to have a happy face when serving and seating your customers.  How do you make sure this happens?  Create an environment that makes them happy to do their job. People perform better when they feel valued.  

Staff morale is not limited to those working in the front of house.  The back of house workers also impact staff morale.  Keeping everyone on the same page and within the same positive state of mind will benefit the restaurant as a whole and keep everyone working hard.

A restaurant consultant has the ability to see the way the staff works and help create a plan to improve performance, attendance, and attitude.  An incentive plan to reward workers for their efforts can be developed. While spending more money is typically not desired from an owner, it’s important to remember that hard work needs to be recognized.  Wouldn’t you appreciate an extra $50 on a paycheck every once in a while?

Quality versus Costs

Many organizations have an accountant that manages all of the expenses for the business.  As a business owner, it’s important for you to review these expenses and look for alternative options to those which are higher than you’d like.

For example, choosing a food vendor can be difficult.  Do you go with the one with the highest quality food and, coincidentally, the highest cost?  Or do you sacrifice quality to save on costs?

With food vendors, you have a choice and need to determine which means more to your business: quality or money.  Just because you value one of these aspects more than the other, it doesn’t mean you have to make a sacrifice.  Take the time to research food vendors and go with the one that best fits your restaurant’s needs.  

Financial Strategies

Between bonus planning and food vendor changes, you may be asking yourself “How am I supposed to make money if I’m spending more?” This is where hiring a restaurant consultant can really come in handy. It’s easy to look at your business and see money going in different directions.  It’s more difficult to change those directions into a flow that benefits you, as an owner, as well as your staff.  

Is the payroll company you are utilizing costing too much?  Does your bank have too many fees?  Does the current bonus structure, if existant, need to be restructured?  How does the restaurant compare to others in the area on a busy Friday night?

As a restaurant owner, you’re in business to make money, not breakeven.  Developing a financial strategy allows you to have a clearer vision of the overall status of the restaurant.  A busy Friday night is great, but if half of the food was comped, your Friday night goes from great to bad.  

Each business runs differently. As a restauranteur, you have to have a firm grip on the financial strategies implemented and make effective changes to keep the business afloat.

Job Performance

People return to restaurants because they love the atmosphere, the food is satisfying, and staff members are friendly.  If one of these aspects falls short, people will take their business elsewhere.  Evaluating your staff members is crucial to the success of your restaurant.  Everyone needs to work as a team to provide satisfying results.

Front of house and back of house staff members must cooperate and build a positive relationship in order to maintain a happy work environment.  Without a happy work environment, people will stop performing well.  This is not limited to wait-staff.  The cooking staff also needs to be rated on their performance.

The quality of food and quality of customer service are two job performance aspects which can frequently be improved.  People go to restaurants to eat.  If the food is terrible and the wait staff doesn’t perform their tasks well, why would the customer return?  

Keep your employees accountable for their actions.  Developing an incentive or bonus structure will work to improve job performance. However, if no one qualifies for the incentives or bonuses due to poor performance, that is reflective of your management team’s inability to enforce high standards for performance.

At the end of the day, it may come down to rehiring staff members.  That’s okay.  To maintain a positive reputation and positive work environment, you need to create a team of people that are willing to work for those incentives and bonuses.

Lease Negotiations

From a young age, many of us are taught the phrase “location, location, location” without any real meaning behind it. The location of your restaurant heavily impacts its success.  Is your restaurant located in an industrial area without a lot of foot traffic?  You probably won’t get a lot of business if that’s the case.

The lease for the industrial restaurant space may have seemed like a good deal for the short-term, but how does this impact your restaurant long-term?  Was it worth saving money upfront to have to put more money into your marketing strategy and advertise even more?

It can be difficult to see the long-term impacts of decisions that benefit the short-term.  From an owner’s perspective, saving money is always great, but are you really saving money or are you spending it somewhere else?

Many restaurant owners should invest in a consultant to help them see the impacts of short-term and long-term decisions. Fresh eyes have the ability to see things clearer and help you better understand how to successfully move your restaurant into a more positive light.  

If location is everything, perhaps relocating your business would be better?  Restaurant consulting organizations have experience in negotiating leases to provide you with the best rate as well as give you the best avenue to sell your restaurant for top dollar.

Investor Relations

When you pitched for funding, you had to get the capital from various sources, such as banks, angel investors, and even family and friends. Have your investors received any returns?

While banks receive payments every month, family and friends may not.  It’s important to keep all of your investors happy and for them to understand the status of your restaurant.  Maintaining investor relations can be time-consuming.  How do you currently manage this?  

Investors want to make sure their money was worth spending on your venture.  Communicating your successes is crucial to maintaining these relationships.

Like any business, business is not always booming.  You may need to ask investors for more funds to make certain enhancements to the location or for expansion.  Keeping those relationships positive helps you in both, the short-term and long-term.   

Restaurant Improvements to Go!

These seven improvements can be done on a consistent basis.  To remain successfully, it’s imperative to frequently take a step back and analyze your restaurant.  

Where can your improvements be made specifically?  Does your staff need to be retrained?  Where are you spending the most money and is there an efficient way to reduce costs?  How do your customers react to your brand?Maintaining stability in business is great, but growth is even better.  Making these improvements sets you up for expansion in the future and even selling your restaurant for top-dollar.  Stay consistent and keep looking for ways to improve.  You’ll thank yourself in the future.

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].