How to Run a Restaurant: The Definitive Guide

Running a restaurant is not everyone’s cup of tea. Or coffee. It is much more than just preparing food in bulk and serving it to customers. There are plenty of other responsibilities that come with it. Tons of different people associated with your restaurant.

The challenges of running a restaurant

“I always say that the only thing harder than opening a restaurant is keeping it open.” – David Moore, Restaurateur, Owner Pied a Terre and L’Autre Pied

A restaurant in Manhattan, The Four Seasons shut down merely after a year it was opened. The managing partner, Alex Von Bidder, was quoted saying that they were not doing enough business to satisfy their investors.

There are many restaurants that shut down within the first few months of opening. Quite a few reasons contribute to such failures.

  1. High staff attrition rates are one of the major reasons why restaurants are forced to shut down even before they complete a year in the industry. It is important that the staff is trained according to your restaurant’s culture. Another reason why employees leave is that they’re not happy with the way they are treated. Therefore along with enhancing customer experience, you must also focus on your restaurant staff.chef with clipboard doing inventory at kitchen
  2. Many restaurants churn due to high costs and other expenses. For various reasons they are not able to generate enough revenue for their investors. Traditional restaurants don’t have enough financial support, which makes it difficult for them to survive in the business.
  3. Often restaurant owners fail because they don’t have a well-constructed business plan. Everything from designing your restaurant to purchasing appliances for your restaurant requires intensive planning.
  4. Restaurants that fail to evolve with the current trends tend to go extinct. Many of them don’t progress from traditional methods to the latest restaurant technology which ultimately leads to negligible sales.

10 ways to successfully run a restaurant business

Promote/Advertise your brand well

“With social media, we’re able to reach people around the globe — it’s so important” – Chris Barish, Owner Black Tap, Manhattan

In a world that’s dictated by social media and technology, it becomes important that you promote your brand to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. There are various ways to achieve this.

1. Use social media

An article in CNN Business talks about how restaurants rise to fame over Instagrammable food. It tells how a luncheonette in Manhattan rose to fame after their bright colourful shakes went viral on Instagram.

People are constantly using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you want something seen, post it on social media. The minute you post a boomerang of that Nutella oozing brownie, you’ll find customers in your restaurant. The key is to be active. Let people know what’s new on your menu. Post vivid discounts and other offers. Using meaningful content along with these posts will further help you in building a unique online presence. If you have your brand’s own online food ordering website, make sure you link all your social media handles for people to have a better look at what your brand really talks about.

2. Running CRM campaigns
Different mediums for sending campaigns

With the help of an integrated CRM tool, you can reach out to your existing customers and provide them with promotional discount coupons that they can redeem. Regularly reach out to them via texts and emails. Time your campaigns along with major events, topics of interest, and larger conversations happening around the world.

3. Organize events at your restaurant

A great way of getting customers to visit your restaurant is by holding fun events like karaoke nights, movie screenings and more. People are constantly in search of a unique wholesome experience and you can provide them just that. Handing them free goodies that showcases your brand’s name or logo is another way of advertising your restaurant. Also, who doesn’t like getting free stuff!

4. Advertise outside your restaurant

Actively participate in external events like food festivals where you give a glimpse of what your restaurant serves. Taking part in these events will also give you an idea of your competitors and how they’re doing things differently in the food industry. Or it can simply mean that you get inspired by something that you can incorporate in your restaurant operations.

Read here to know about the 12 unique restaurant promotion ideas.

Know your competition and build a unique brand

The late celebrated chef, Anthony Bourdain in an interview said,

“I think the future is going to be chefs who speak with a coherent, concise voice with a real identity.”

There is no dearth of restaurants today. So, why should someone come to your restaurant? What makes your restaurant different from the one that’s right across the street?

As a restaurant owner, it is important that you know who your competitors are. Then figure out what you’re lacking in your approach. Once you’ve got that covered, you can focus on creating a unique brand identity. Build on the things that make your restaurant stand out from the rest.

Let’s say you’re a traditional restaurant that uses a different combination of herbs and spices for preparing a fish curry, you’d want people to know about it. If your restaurant is dog-friendly and has a special menu for them, highlight it.

Ace your menu game

Westbound's menu

Your restaurant’s menu is like a book that talks about your restaurant. It shouldn’t just be limited to the names of dishes or their prices. It must tell your brand’s story.

1. Regularly update your menu

Picture this, you’re on a vacation and there’s a dish of pasta you come across that goes particularly well with flavoured vodka. Instantly intimate your chefs regarding the same. And add that new dish on your menu.

2. Add season’s specials and highlight best selling items

It’s mango season! Release a special menu that has mango-based desserts, shakes and more. Let your kitchen staff be as creative as possible. Highlight the most selling dish on your menu. It’s always a safe bet, both for the customers and you.

3. Use salivating terms

No, this is not absurd. Studies suggest that customers end up ordering dishes that are described using words like, “caramelized onions”, “cheese infused”, “chocolate oozing”, “creamy rich”, and more. They make the dish look good even before it’s served.

4. Narrate the story behind each dish

No, this does not mean you tell how each dish is prepared. Tell your customers how that dish came into existence or some stunning fact related to it. People are always curious to know about the food they’re eating. If you’re a traditional brand, you could write about the conventional methods of cooking.

5. Use captivating illustrations and images

Giving a glimpse of your dishes is always a good idea. However, make sure the images that you’re using are identical to what is being served. Another way of capturing the customer’s attention is by using illustrations related to your restaurant’s theme.

bakery order online

Read here for more tips and examples on how to create the best restaurant menu card.

Manage your staff (not) like a boss

In an interview with Forbes, owner and chef patron of a restaurant in UK, Galton Blackiston said,

“We get lots of youngsters coming to us, some of them highly qualified, but I tend to disregard that. What counts is what they are like as people and how they fit into the team. Everything else can be trained. It’s great to see raw, green youngsters mature and grow.”

When was the last time you asked any of your staff members how she’s doing? If the answer is “long back” or “never”, it may be time for you to do that. It is very important that you take good care of your staff. Remember, they work with you and not for you.

1. Hire right

It all starts with hiring the right people for your restaurant. If you hire people who understand your work culture and share the same vision as yours, it’s highly likely that they’ll resign. Make sure you clearly explain the different roles at the time of hiring.

2. Train well

There are times when a person may not know the exact ways of doing a particular work but are willing to learn and help. It then becomes important that help them learn the tricks of the trade.

3. Converse with your staff

Restaurant staff

And not just about work. Engage in conversations other than work. About their experience in working with your restaurant. Let them know they can talk to you about any problems they’re facing. Conduct meetings regularly to discuss and plan the flow of work in your restaurant.

4. Host fun in house events

Organise dinners, game nights, etc. to make it light for your employees. This way your employees will also get to know each other. And it breaks the monotony.

5. Incentivise regularly

Rewarding your restaurant staff regularly is a good way of motivating them to further excel. Give interesting incentives as a way of appreciating their efforts at making your restaurant a success.

Here’s a complete guide to restaurant staff management and how you can do it better.

Prioritize your ‘guest experience’

“The customer wants bang for their buck; something delicious they can post on social media, and however it’s made, those model dishes — the ones that are sweet, salty, savory, with that umami bomb that smacks you in the face and says ‘you’re alive again’ — and that reaction is what we want as cooks.”
– Steve Gonzalez, Chef and Owner, Baro restaurant, Toronto, in an interview with Forbes

Kitchen Order Tickets

1. Your restaurant’s first priority must be the guests. Providing your customers with great food and an even better service should be the aim. Your restaurant’s sales are partially dictated by repeat customers. And a customer will come back to your restaurant only if they were happy during their first visit.

2. Regularly reward your customers with exciting offers and discounts. And you must also make sure that they fill the feedback forms. Even better if you go and ask if there’s anything missing from your end.

3. Provide your customers with a relaxing ambience and timely service. Nobody likes waiting, especially for food. Train your wait-staff to be quick with their service. There shouldn’t be any loopholes.

To know more about providing a great customer experience for your restaurant, click here.

Don’t run into trouble with the authorities

Your restaurant must have all the licenses and permits in place. Often restaurant owners forget to renew certain licenses, because of which they are forced to shut down their establishments entirely. Always be aware of new rules that are formed in the restaurant business.

Here’s a complete list of all 11 licenses required to open a restaurant in India.

  • Don’t cut down on your expenses and invest well
  • Always choose the best for your restaurant. Buy the latest restaurant technology. Purchase fresh products and ingredients for your restaurant kitchen. There shouldn’t be a compromise on the quality of food that you serve in your restaurant.
  • Research well before making any heavy purchases for your kitchen. Think of it as a one-time investment.
Have your operations sorted

It’s always best to begin right. Have control of your operations right from the beginning of your restaurant business. Because as and when it grows you’ll have multiple outlets on your plate.

  1. Get a Point of Sale system for your restaurant. A centralised POS system helps increase the operational efficiency of your establishment. It simplifies the functions greatly and you’re able to run your restaurant better.
  2. Different reports and dashboards will give you insight into your restaurant business. You don’t necessarily need an expert to decode reports as they are already simplified and easy to understand.
  3. Given how technologically advanced all industries are today, you must do away with traditional ways and means that included heavy excel sheets and files. Take a backseat and let technology take care of all operations.
  4. Maintain separate restaurant analytics dashboard on inventory and finances. Strictly maintain your inventory. Not only is that cost-effective but you will waste a lot less. Update these regularly, look for any deficiencies in your methods and work on them.
Technology for the win

Equip your restaurant with the latest technology and there will be no going back.

restaurant-inventory-pos-all

 

  1. Restaurant POS system
    Cloud Point of Sale system is much more than just a billing machine. A modern POS system takes care of order-punching, generation and printing of digital KOTs and much more.
  2. Online Ordering platforms
    Given the level of competition in the food biz, it is wiser to have your own online food ordering system. This eliminates the cost that you’re forced to pay to the third party food aggregators. And it gives you your own online space to showcase what your brand really is.
  3. Integrated features and software
    POS systems today come with proper integrations, unlike the conventional cash register. Built-in CRM solutions, Loyalty Programs, Reports and Analytics, third-party food aggregator software. Everything can be managed on one system at any point in time.
Stay in the loop

“But it is important to keep changing with time to keep the legacy alive.” – Monish Gujral, chef and restaurateur, Moti Mahal, New Delhi, in an interview with Forbes.

Is your restaurant up to date with the current trends? When was the last time you posted something on your restaurant’s Instagram page?

It is very important to incorporate any new trends that are taking the world over. Make sure your restaurant holds special screenings of the Cricket World Cup. Or make sure you go live on your Instagram and Facebook the next time you hold a potluck dinner with your restaurant staff. You can run your restaurant successfully only when you know what’s happening in the restaurant industry.

Are you running your restaurant right?

Your restaurant is going to be a giant success once you broadly have your restaurant’s operations, marketing and technology in place. So now you know it’s not just limited to providing lip-smacking food and great customer experience.

Over to you!

How to Run a Restaurant: The Definitive Guide
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Devyani Singh

Devyani Singh

Devyani is a content marketer at LimeTray. Often seen with her earphones on listening to 90s rock and Jazz or reading Harry Potter all over again. She's extremely fascinated by trees and can be seen photographing them every now and then.