Chain restaurants are anathema for true restaurateurs. They have set a precedent for homogeneity and uniformity in a field that should be all about creative expression. Still, it’s easy to see why chains are so appealing to today’s consumers. Especially in economically uncertain times like these. The reason why people line up to eat at Olive Garden or Benihana is the same reason why they stand in line to see the next Avengers movie. They don’t like surprises. And they want to know what they’re getting for their hard-earned money before they’re prepared to part with it.
While this may be frustrating, it’s certainly not an impulse that you can afford to ignore. Especially in this difficult time for the service industry. Diners don’t go to these restaurants because they’re the best, but because they have earned their trust. The good news is that you can protect your business’ future by earning their trust too…
Charge what your meals are worth, but by all means use enticing offers
The restaurant business is generally a low-margin, high-cost affair. And this may be exacerbated if you try to make undercutting competitor’s prices your USP. By all means try and lure new diners in with enticing offers. But make sure that these remain offers and not your fixed prices. Otherwise they’ll just assume that you’re cheap. And cheap is almost never good in restaurant terms. Why?…
Remember: You can’t make quality dishes without great ingredients
Restaurants that charge consistently low prices simply can’t be using good quality ingredients. Still, that doesn’t mean that you need to hubble your cash flow with needlessly expensive ingredients. You just need to find the sweet spot between cost and quality for your business. There are lots of suppliers like umami foods that will give you both. But you need to be willing to experiment and cut your losses if a vendor isn’t giving you the quality on which you can build your brand.
Beware the dangers of an over-complicated menu
On Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares one of his most common criticisms is that the menu is too ambitious and trying to accomplish too much. The more you offer the more you’re likely to sacrifice in terms of quality and freshness. Keep your menu simple, play to your strength and deliver quality in every bite.
Remember that your team are your value added
Your ingredients and your premises are the foundation of the dining experience. But it’s the people that bring the experience to life. From the waiters and waitresses to the chefs that bring their expertise to the table (literally), the people you hire tie everything else together. The restaurant business is traditionally high-turnover. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t insist on quality in the people you hire.
Make sure they feel safe the moment they walk through the door
Finally, in the COVID-era, your greeters are your most powerful weapon. Make sure they greet guests enthusiastically. A smile goes a long way, even when it’s under a face masks. Make sure they explain the measures that you’ve taken to keep your diners safe and address any questions or concerns they have as soon as they walk through the door.
This will show them how much you genuinely care about their safety as well as their dining experience.