In my Forbes article, “Four Key Areas To Improving Your Restaurant,” I discussed the necessities of portion-control, reducing food costs, training staff, and proper employee scheduling as essential areas of focus, when running a successful restaurant business. As independent restaurants continue to struggle for success and making a mark in their local communities, I thought it important to revisit the subject.
For the many struggling restaurant owners who have crafted a perfect product, but struggle to achieve success, or the folks who are considering opening up a new restaurant, you need to consider the following:
Is Your Business Unique Enough to Survive?
What makes your business stand out? What makes Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe want to sit in your restaurant and order a burger from you? Having an identity for your business that’s both unique and easily recognizable is almost more valuable than the actual product you are selling.
Do you think Buffalo Wild Wings raked in over $3.6 Billion in US sales, and has expanded to over 1,145 locations because of their semi-edible food? NO! They are successful because they’ve appealed to the sports-fan demographic, delivering them a wide assortment of dishes and drinks that are specific to that market, and they guarantee that their customers will be able to watch their favorite team play on one of the numerous TVs hanging on their walls and in their bathrooms.
From the colors on their menus, to the uniforms on the backs of their employees, Buffalo Wild Wings has designed itself to appeal to the sports fanatic, making their brand easily recognizable, and overwhelmingly successful.
Take this into consideration with your business. Offer your customers something that will make them go out of their way to visit. Ask yourself if you’re fulfilling a niche market that can be marketable. Consider what you want to offer your clientele, and determine if that is enough to quench the thirst of customers looking for a new spot to eat.
Location, Location, Location
Loudmouth Burgers, an Orlando restaurant, set up shop near the intersection of John Young Parkway and Sand Lake Rd, not far from my office. Their location would be considered, by some, as prime real estate, seeing between 5,000 to 10,000 cars driving by each workday.
Despite their good food, decent reviews, and competitive pricing, the business ended up closing. Why? Because their location had set them up for failure before they even had their grand opening.
Even though they were situated off a busy intersection, they were separated from their customers by a large-grassy shoulder, off the main road. Not only did this location make it hard for customers to see their sign and building, it also created a parking nightmare, forcing customers to take side streets just to get into the parking lot!
The local demographics also dealt a mortal blow to their business. Though the traffic was high from Monday through Friday, during the working and lunchtime hours, the evenings and weekends were almost completely dead. This was because they were in the heart of an industrial area with very few residents.
They may have had an incredible menu, but their days were numbered because they didn’t take into full account what this location would mean for their business. It’s a consideration every restaurant owner must take into account, otherwise they’ve lost the race before it’s even begun.
Brick-and-Mortar, Do You Need One?
A brick-and-mortar establishment might be your dream, but it’s a dream that can easily become a nightmare. In developing a business plan, you need to decide who your customers are, what unique services you will provide them, and determine a location that’s easily accessible and meets the right demographic.
Would you be better off serving from a kiosk in a mall, shipping food from a home business, or traveling to new locations via food truck? Weigh your options and calculate how you can get a greater return on investment and which serves your customers more.