Recent world events have made the restaurant business a real challenge. Rising food costs are impacting your kitchen as well as the budgets of your customers and employees. As you strive to build or rebuild your customer base, the tips below may make it easier to offer your guests the very best while providing your employees with a terrific workplace.
Let customers know they count as soon as they walk into your facility. A quick greeting by the hostess, even if a customer will have to wait to be seated, will do a lot to reduce frustration and worry.
A seating area just inside the door will be helpful for older customers or those in less than optimal health. If you’re aiming to feed families, make sure your offerings for children include something they can take home. Art supplies are fun, but sending a little one home with their own drink bottle that features your logo will keep your business front of mind.
Make sure all clients know about any “kids eat free!” specials you offer. There may be many clients who want to visit your restaurant on those days and a few who want to come on another night. In either case, clear communication will keep everyone happy.
Keep a careful eye on the most popular items on your menu. Due to availability and cost, you may need to pare back some items. Let the less-than-popular dishes drop off and consider offering items that are somewhat popular as advertised specials.
Do your best to make sure you have a floor runner on each busy shift. This person can fill water and coffee, run condiments to tables, and help with any cleanup necessary. Floor runner positions will have an easier time training up as waiters or hostesses as well.
One of the big costs to any business is training employees. A healthy focus on employee retention will help keep those costs from walking out the door.
Restaurant employees know that certain times of the day will be busier than others. If you’ve got employees who are terrific in the crush, make sure they get the pick of the best shifts. Offer as much flexibility as possible to those who need some downtime from those very busy hours.
Keep an eye on your experienced crew members and note which are the best trainers. You may have some terrific employees, but it doesn’t mean that all of them are terrific teachers. Once you know who your trainers are, consider bumping up their hourly wages during training times so both seasoned and new employees get the best experience possible.
One terrific benefit of an effective restaurant management system is that you can track what your most popular recipes cost on a weekly basis. If you’re known for a particular dish and the cost becomes prohibitive, it may make more sense to offer it as a weekly special rather than as a regular menu item. Make sure you loop in your marketing team on these promotions to let your guests know that their favorite item isn’t gone forever.
Of course, recent world events have led to a great deal of volatility in the price of food. Your dinner guests know this, but there may be a real risk of losing some customers if you raise your prices too high. In such a case, it may make more sense to offer some flexibility in your service.
For example, you can offer shared meals at certain hours. Your guests may choose to split the protein entrée and each enjoys a salad and their own side. You might bump up your a la carte offerings or offer a free dessert as part of the special. Raising your prices doesn’t have to price your guests out of joining you for dinner!
Every happy customer is part of your marketing team. To that end, offer them perks for sharing their experience at your restaurant. Good reviews can be hard to find; data indicates that unhappy guests are 21% more likely to leave a bad review than a good one.
Add a line at the bottom of your lunch menu about your desire to earn a good review. Request that happy clients share their experiences on social media and on Google. Add a discount coupon at the bottom of their receipt and request email addresses on their way out the door. Offer a discount code to the email for their use and another one for any friend they choose to share it with.
Keep your communications with clients very simple. Let them know about upcoming specials and offer the coupon code. Don’t add a great deal of flash and keep graphics simple. Avoid adding too many links; your promotional email may end up in their spam filter.
A simple way to create community is to offer a birthday freebie. This may or may not mean that your wait staff sings to the birthday celebrant, but gathering that data and offering specials on those days is a terrific way to bring folks back in the door.
To that end, make sure that your employees also get to celebrate with other staff. If you’ve got someone who’s working a busy shift on their birthday, stop and chat with their tables. As a restaurant manager, it can be easy to view yourself as a problem solver. Make sure you are also the celebration leader when your employees are having a special day.
Offer rewards for going above and beyond. If you have someone who steps up to cover a second shift due to illness, offer a public “thank you” and a gift card. A simple $10 gift card to any major retailer will reward the employee. It will also help you out; the next time you need to ask someone to pull a double, you’ll have more volunteers.
As costs go up and budgets shrink, guests will be more likely to return to a place where they feel celebrated and treated exceptionally well. Do your best to maintain your menu favorites while you reduce costs by managing your offerings. Give employees the chance to manage their schedules with a mobile tool. Keep the folks you train.