Saturday, November 19, 2011

What makes an eatery succeed in a community?

When talking about restaurants (one of my favorite topics), I sometimes have wondered why some do so well while others close their doors after only a short time in business. That seems to happen quite a bit where I live in southwest Missouri. The tough times going on right now don’t seem to help very much either! So, what differentiates a successful establishment from one that is not so successful?

First, I wanted to set aside those obvious attributes that can kill any business. My list of these would include:

Unsanitary conditions
Poor service
Uncooked or over cooked fare
High prices

I think those four represent reasons all by themselves to cause a food business to falter. Nobody wants to eat in a dirty establishment, manned by surly waiters who bring overpriced and overcooked food to your table. I’ve actually had that happen to me once in Chicago and surprising to me at the time, it was at a very posh French restaurant. Well, posh or not, I knew a bad thing when it say it! So, right off the bat, I think if a business exhibits any one of these four they will be in trouble sooner or later.

Next on my list of attributes that a business should be concerned about are;

Menu depth

Of these four, I think perhaps the most important is the management. Good managers are highly reactive individuals whose heads are on a swivel at all times. They know their clientele, what they like and don’t like and how to take care of them. Paradoxically, they also know how to nurture and massage the servers and cooking staff to a tee. Sometimes the two can be at odds, especially if you have a large number of demanding clientele. (If you ever want to see fireworks, send back a meal to the cook with a message that you refuse to eat the slop he made)! A guaranteed good time will ensue, I promise. No, really good managers know how to work a business so that everyone goes home happy. And owners, if you find someone like that, hold onto them – they’re gold!

Next up for consideration is ambiance and menu depth – both of which are tricky and changing for many locations. When a customer walks in to a venue for the first time, believe me impressions will make all the difference! Bad feelings or impressions on the part of the customer will pretty much guarantee you’ll never see them again. Also too, the menu must reflect an assortment that your average customer is happy with. Serving a haute cuisine like ‘Caille en sarcophage’ (quail in a puffy pastry) would probably not be ordered very often if your crowd is more a beer and hamburger consumer. Also, the successful restaurateur wants to keep an eye out for trends that may be taking shape right under their noses. For example, today’s older set are increasingly concerned about overeating, excessive salt intake and greasy items on their plates. An aggressive owner will see such trends and then modify what is offered to suit changing needs. For instance, many people over a certain age have been told by their doctor to avoid salt as it tends to increase hypertension. Yet, how many places out there offer a salt substitute on the table? Then too, they might want to consider special discounted ‘senior meals’ that look more like kids meals in that they offer smaller portions at more petite pricing. So, there! A well structured menu in comfortable surroundings! I’d eat at a place like that!

The last item in this group is the advertising aspect. Now when I talk about advertising, I most assuredly do not mean in just the newspaper or radio! While you may get a few returns for the money spent, these pale when you look at far less expensive ways to attract and keep customers. I’ll go over just a few I think might work.

Web Presence
WiFi Hot Spots
'Bring a friend' deals

Right this minute, there is a revolution going on all around us. More and more individual are dropping out of listening to the local radio or even watching conventional TV in favor of broadband streams. Even many older folks are coming on line and shopping via the internet. So then is it true that when they want to know about a particular restaurant, they will increasingly turn to web pages that feature the location and to blogs that provide a much more candid disclosure of what they can expect when actually eating there.

In a similar vein, the younger generation who cut their baby teeth on computer technology wouldn’t dream of going somewhere where they could not access the net via a hot spot. (Now, if you’re an owner and you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about then you are already in deep trouble). The solution is to make sure you have an attractive web location and that you provide network access to you customer base!

The ‘bring a friend’ deal is something I just threw in at the last minute. It’s based on the concept that for each customer that goes to a particular venue, they more than likely have some friends they could either tell about your place or bring with them next time they come in. Short inexpensive ad campaigns designed around this concept can reap large rewards if properly managed….and that brings me to the last concept of this post. Smart Owners!

Smart owners of eateries which not only survive but even prosper usually have a few key traits in common.They understand the concept of profitability and instill that concept in each of their managers. They encourage server staff loyalty by making them active participants in the business through structured profit sharing programs. Menus are scrutinized on a daily basis with specials offered that help to maximize profits. Serving staff share in this by helping customers order in the directions of more profitable menu items and are recompensed for that effort as a result. A feeling of co-ownership instills pride and the desire to see the establishment succeed by everyone working there. Cooking staff can also be rewarded in similar ways and should never be left out. Some owners make sure to offer their employees perks in the form of free beverages and meals. In short they foster working conditions that are conducive to spontaneity and creativity. Smart owners never think in terms of my business, but in terms of our business. Smart owners are generally around when most other enterprises have long since closed.

Disclaimer: All information posted here are the sole property and opinions of the author of Forsythkid.

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