There are many restaurants today. If you are the average American who has never owned a restaurant before, then it can be quite daunting to know where to begin. So we decided to do all the research and compile it into one easy-to-read article. Let’s begin!
Here are the things you need to know! What is the statistics? According to a recent study done by Alleywatch.com results show that 60% of businesses fail in their first year. Of course, none of us want to be part of that statistic. We do not want to discourage you from opening up that dream restaurant; however, this is to serve as an eye-opener to see the practicality of the advice we are giving you. The biggest thing that contributes to failure is lack of planning. In other words, when you lack solid planning you can plan to fail solidly. As you will see in this article, planning is the most important part, even before worrying about the money. Planning involves preparing for possible roadblocks, minute details and preparing yourself to take responsibility.
Have the right motives. Now we all like money. Money is both a necessity and a luxury. In addition, we as humans love time. Do you often hear yourself saying “I wish I had more time?” We know we do! Some may reason that opening up their own business will offer them more money and time. Is this true? The answer, not necessarily! The truth is money and time doesn’t come automatically. In fact, owning your own restaurant would require even more work. So if money, time, or some other force is motivating you to start a restaurant maybe you should reconsider. Ask yourself, will I love what I will be doing? Am I willing to put forth the necessary effort and time to see my restaurant succeed? Will I be motivated to wake up in the morning and put in a hard day of work? If the answer to any of these is no then you should reconsider.
Your target market. Who are you looking to appeal to? There are different generations, different preferences and different views. Remember in the restaurant business one size does not fit all. You have to choose your target market before you even think about your restaurant name much less your restaurant itself. Is it a family style or is it more for adults, children, or teens? You may think about what a teenager would like, and how it is different from a child, or how a child would differ from an adult. Things you can consider is who would you see being at your restaurant? Who would they recommend to come?
Begin your business plan. This is where the brainstorming begins. This is where all your ideas can come together in an array of excellence. What are somethings you should think about? What is the atmosphere you are planning to create? What is the theme? What are the hook’s that drive customers in? How does your restaurant differ from other similar restaurants? Why will customers like my restaurant? Where is the restaurant’s location, and how will that adds to the experience of the restaurant? Here are some of the fundamental parts of a business plan you’ll need to think about. These are followed by:
• Executive Summary
• Company Description
• Products and Services
• Market analysis
• Strategy and Implementation
• Organization and Management Team
• Financial plan and projections
You are well on your way to starting your new restaurant business and restaurant supply is here to help! We have the right supplies for anyone even you! Let us know what you need!
With the arrival of the month of May comes an important holiday for foodies: Mother’s Day. For restaurants and home cooks alike, Mother’s Day is a big deal--one of the ways that we all seem to agree is best for showing we care about our mothers is to take some of the burden of cooking off of them. Whether the decision is to take Mom out to brunch or a fancy dinner, or to cook up something at home and take care of the clean-up afterwards, restaurant supply stores have great options for making a special Mother’s Day event happen.
For restaurants, Mother’s Day can represent a big bump in business, since so many people opt to take their Moms out for a good meal to celebrate the day. Brunches are particularly popular, since it’s a way to start the celebration early in the day, and still incorporate a fancy cocktail to make things feel special. On the other end of the business day, dinner is also popular--since it’s sometimes easier for people to gather in the evening, and since Mother’s Day is on a Sunday. Of course, this means that restaurants and catering companies alike should be prepared for the spike in business; a prix fixe menu would be an excellent thing to plan for the day, to make an option available for those looking to celebrate on a budget as well as to cut down on kitchen chaos. Good options for a Mother’s Day prix fixe menu include seasonal fruits and veggies in an appetizer, something luxurious for the main, and a decadent dessert: so think of salads and seasonal soups to start patrons off, and a special pasta dish or cream-sauced main course. Of course, there aren’t a whole lot of women who don’t appreciate a delicious chocolate dessert, but just in case of allergies, consider an option with fresh spring berries as well.
For the stay-at-home celebrants, it’s easy to plan a beautiful Mother’s Day celebration with a little bit of advance thought and--in some cases--a few smart restaurant supply store purchases. Breakfast in bed is always a popular option; an easy way to accomplish a low-stress breakfast would be to settle on a somewhat elegant casserole, like a French toast bake, or hashbrown casserole. Of course, if you really want to shoot for the stars, there’s nothing like a well-made eggs benedict, orange juice, coffee, and fruit. With the right equipment, it’s easy to make something like this not only happen but come across with a level of ease and beauty that will make it a true success.
The important things to keep in mind, no matter what kind of celebration you’re working on planning for Mother’s Day, are to keep things relatively simple: stick with tried-and-true recipes and concepts that don’t require a huge amount of fussing, and plan to prepare in advance, even for surprises. For restaurants, making sure to place a slightly larger order than usual is a good move: while it’s hard to predict the extent to which traffic will increase on the day itself, there’s almost certainly going to be a boost to numbers, and it would not reflect well on the restaurant to run out. Incorporating a fixed-price menu into the lineup for the event would be a good idea because it’s easier to plan for a ballpark estimate of specific dishes that will be made, and keep cost-per-plate at a set budget; it also means that there’s less risk of a bump in traffic to the restaurant resulting in running out of staples. For those celebrants staying at home to pay tribute to Mom, it’s a good idea to do a dry run at least a few days before you plan the big meal, to make sure you can keep things clean and get things done in the time frame you’re planning on.
Mother’s Day comes every year, but it’s an important day for all of us to recognize the women in our lives that help to keep us fed--body and soul. Whatever form of celebration you are working on for the mothers in your life or clientele, put a little bit of thought into the planning, and make sure you have the right supplies and tools, and you can make something really special.
With 2018 comes a new year and a new opportunity to impress your guests every single day.
I'm talking about everyone's real favorite days of the year - National Taco Day, National Shrimp Day, National Cheeseburger Day, and all the other national food days.
Arguably, national food holidays are more important to your restaurant than the more "traditionally observed" holidays because, in a way, these days were made for restaurants. It's up to you to come up with creative restaurant promotions and marketing ideas to bring more customers into your restaurants on these days.
Here are 16 popular food days and national food holidays you can start planning for in your restaurant. Be sure to take note of them in your 2018 Restaurant Marketing Calendar.
National Chocolate Cake Day – January 27
National Chocolate Cake Day (January 27) celebrates a staple of the restaurant industry – from bakeries and cafés, to Happy Birthday sing-a-longs at casual dining chains, to exquisite Bavarian delight in fine dining restaurants. Since desserts are among the most highly marked-up sections of the menu, don't dismiss this dessert's day.
Try out a couple ideas for your National Chocolate Cake Day promotion:
- Bake a limited-edition National Chocolate Cake Day cake.
- Offer a free chocolate cake slice per table.
- Give a coupon for a free slice of cake for a guest's next visit.
National Pizza Day – February 9
National Pizza Day (February 9) is just around the corner! Pizzerias rejoice - this is one of America's most beloved foods, with 3 billion pizzas being sold each year in this country alone. If you create a promotion to celebrate the true joy that pizzas bring, your customers will definitely embrace it.
If your restaurant sells pizza, try one of these promotions for National Pizza Day:
- Half-price pizzas with two or more toppings.
- A free small cheese pizza with the purchase of a $25 gift card.
- A complimentary slice of pizza to everyone who stops by and is a member of your loyalty program.
To raise awareness of whatever promotion you decide on, share the special on your restaurant social media pages and send out an alert to your customer database and loyalty program members.
National Margarita Day – February 22
National Margarita Day (February 22) is clearly here for the 21+ crowd. Have some fun with this one for your bar or full service restaurant!
Consider one of these promotions:
- Offer an extended happy hour to celebrate the day.
- Host an event for unlimited or discounted margaritas. Sell tickets in advance and serve light apps or chips and salsa.
- Keep it simple and offer half-off margaritas.
National Shrimp Day – May 10
National Shrimp Day (May 10) lands just as the weather starts to get warmer and people get excited for summer months. Bars offering shrimp cocktail and classier seafood restaurants could see a surge in business. Acknowledge the day with one of these promotions.
- Host a "Cocktails and Shrimp Cocktail" event in your bar.
- Make your specials menu entirely shrimp-centric.
- Offer a free fried shrimp appetizer with the purchase of any other appetizer.
National Wine Day – May 25
National Wine Day (May 25) promotions will be most successful in bars, full service, and fine dining restaurants. Whether you have a limited selection or a wide array of fine wines, bring attention to your vino menu with one of these ideas.
- Offer a complimentary sampler of wines during dinner when guests order a meal over $40.
- Highlight a few featured wines that are new to your menu and aren't getting the attention they deserve. Add them to a special National Wine Day menu and sell them for a lower price to see if your guests enjoy the drink or determine if you should remove them from your menu.
- Offer a prix-fixe menu and include some of your finest wines as the selected beverages.
Whatever you decide to do, it might be beneficial to turn Wine Day into Wine Week, especially if it falls on a weekday. Make the announcement on your restaurant's website and social media pages.
National Egg Day – June 3
National Egg Day (June 3) opens up a ton of possibilities for diners and for restaurants that offer breakfast. Whether you scramble 'em, fry 'em, or hard boil 'em, people love eggs, with the average American eating 250 eggs each year. Here are some ways restaurants can capitalize on this.
- Discounted omelets all day long. After all, who says no to breakfast for dinner?
- Bonus loyalty points for members of your loyalty program who stop in to visit and order a dish with eggs.
- Free toppings in omelets today only.
For National Egg Day, share your promotion idea on any signs or boards you have in your restaurant so your regulars know it's coming up.
National Onion Ring Day – June 22
National Onion Ring Day (June 22) may just be the predecessor to the next major national food holiday (more on that later), but it's still a chance to bring some attention to an otherwise underrated appetizer. Try a couple of these ideas to get some sales rolling.
- Charge a fee for upgrading to onion rings? Nix that for the day.
- Give all tables a free onion ring tower if they purchase drinks.
- The week before June 22, give all patrons a coupon for a free side of onion rings if they come in on the 22nd.
National French Fries Day – July 13
National French Fries Day (July 13) honors the staple side dish of almost every American meal. Some restaurants show their french fry appreciation in many forms: curly, sweet potato, parmesan truffle, you name it. Try some of these strategies to boost sales on National French Fries Day.
- Pizzerias can throw in an order of fries to all orders of $15 or more - even those that don't ask for it! This is called surprise and delight, and your customers will be gleefully taken aback.
- Fancier restaurants can offer a complimentary side of house fries (like parmesan truffle or sweet potato) at all tables.
- Post that it's National French Fries Day on your social media channels and say that all members of your loyalty program who come in and say "Happy National French Fry Day!" get a free side of fries. (Also mention that if they're not a member of your loyalty program they can easily join!)
For promotion, it's best to stick to social media for this one. You can even try posting the announcement to your Story on Snapchat!
National Vanilla Ice Cream Day – July 23
"Anyone care for dessert?"
To get more of your guests to answer "yes" to that question, try these strategies on National Ice Cream Day (June 23).
- Any dessert with ice cream is buy one, get one free.
- Make any dessert a la mode at no extra cost.
- Gift card special for the week: free ice cream cone/dish when a guest purchases a gift card $20 or more.
National Oyster Day – August 5
National Oyster Day (August 5) finally brings us around to seafood restaurants, which have been waiting for their turn on the National Food Day calendar all year. Now that it's here, try these promotion ideas.
- All-you-can-eat oyster bar for a discounted price.
- Host an oyster eating contest at your restaurant.
- Give a complimentary coupon for a free side order of oysters on the next visit when guests buy a $50 gift card.
National Cheeseburger Day - September 18
That picture is making me very hungry and I now wish that National Cheeseburger Day (September 18) were tomorrow. When it finally does arrive, these ideas may be worth a try.
- No charge for cheese or extra cheese on a burger. (It's National Cheeseburger Day, after all!).
- Double loyalty points when someone buys a cheeseburger today (and double points when someone signs up today).
- Free drink and fries with the purchase of any cheeseburger.
Start promoting a week or two in advance. Social media is best, and reaching out to your customer base via email marketing will also work well.
National Coffee Day - September 29
Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee every day - it's almost like every day is National Coffee Day. Regardless, here are some ideas to help you celebrate.
- Free coffee for your loyalty program members. If money is tight at your restaurant or cafe, try offering a free coffee with the purchase of a pastry or food item (or vice versa).
- BOGO coffee when you come in with a friend.
- Complimentary coffee after a meal for fine dining restaurants.
National Taco Day - October 4
Forget Cinco de Mayo; October 4th is the real National Taco Day. Here are some ways you can embrace tacos in your restaurant.
- $2 tacos all night long with the purchase of a drink.
- Experiment with a limited-time taco menu - taco pizza, fish tacos, etc.
- Taco eating contest. Enough said.
National Nacho Day – November 6
National Nacho Day (November 6) embraces the classic bar snack. Add guacamole, chicken, salsa, corn, you name it. Everything seems to go with nachos. Promoting your National Nacho Day specials on your restaurant Instagram account with enticing images of chips smothered in melted cheese will have millennials flocking to your restaurant.
Here are a few options for specials:
- Offer free add-ons to any basic nachos.
- Promote a special of bottomless nachos with the purchase of any drink.
- Host bar trivia. The winning team wins a gift card redeemable for ten free nacho appetizers over the year.
National Cookie Day – December 4
National Cookie Day can be a big seller for your cafe or bakery. Use social media to help promote one of these strategies.
- Complimentary dozen of cookies with the purchase of a $25 gift card and/or half off a dozen of cookies for everyone.
- One free cookie to everyone in your loyalty program and/or one free cookie with the purchase of another item for everyone else.
- Sell a limited-time cookie variety box with limited time varieties. Listen to the feedback you get and consider adding one of the types to your menu!
Aside from social media, leveraging your customer database here is another smart idea.
National Lager Day – December 10
Cheers to you, National Lager Day! December 10 is the time to grab a glass and be thankful for the beers in your life. These days, Americans are obsessed with hoppy craft IPAs. If you have any German or Euro-inspired lagers, showcase them on your draft line this day.
Here are a few ideas you can give a whirl:
- Replace all of your ale kegs with lagers.
- If you can't swap out your kegs cost-effectively, offer half-off lagers.
- Have a "two bears for the price of one" special to fill more seats at the bar.
Preparing for National Food Days in Your Restaurant
These are just ten of the hundreds of National Food Days and National Food Holidays your restaurant may want to prepare for. But how can you plan for the rest, not to mention every other holiday, like Mother's Day, Christmas, and Easter?
We know how challenging it can be for restaurants to balance their marketing over the course of the year.
That's why we've whipped up a 2018 Restaurant Marketing Calendar. It's an interactive template you can use to plan out your marketing budget, activities, and promotions alongside 2018's national food days.
We also connect you with the resources you'll need to formulate a restaurant marketing budget best fit for your restaurant.
We've already made a dent in 2018 - it's time to start planning for the rest of the year in your restaurant.
Deciding on the perfect restaurant theme is no small task. It takes a careful blend of creativity, planning, and insight into the market where you intend to open your business.
There are countless restaurant themes to choose from; whatever you decide to go with will be unique to you, your business, and your clientele.
While diners do cite ambiance as an important element of their dining experience, it’s not everything. Cool lighting fixtures and intricate murals won’t make up for excessive noise, poor service, or low quality food.
Here are four real examples of restaurants with distinct themes, accompanied by real online reviews of their businesses.
1. Bohemian With An Edge
A bohemian-themed restaurant is a great way to take your guests back in time, or transport them to parts unknown around the world.
Beatnik, located in Chicago, is designed to resemble the Bohemian lifestyle of 1950’s America and Europe. They incorporate exotic music, lush enteriors, and elements of old world elegance to bring guests back to the time of Kerouac and Ginsberg.
What Their Customers Say
Alka Maheshwari, a Google local guide, writes “A beautiful place in West Town. The decor alone is worth the visit: ornately carved wooden panels to the opulent chandeliers to the checkerboard floor. Multiple small plates and sides on the menu making it easier to order a variety of dishes. All three sections of the establishment have their own charm.”
Hunter G, another Google local guide, has a different opinion on the vibe. Accompanying his two star review, he writes, “Horrible hostess staff. Requested a nice table because it was a special event in the reservation. She sat us at a high top in the bar area. Inside is really artsy and the atmosphere is awesome.”
What Can We Learn From Beatnik?
Beatnik’s bohemian vibe is counter-culture coolness, but an experience with poor service is always sure to ruin a night out.
2. Locally Sourced
Incorporating your values into your restaurant's theme can be a great way to connect with customers on a deeper level.
The Marshal, in New York City, is a great example of a locally-sourced, sustainability-focused restaurant that has oriented their entire business operations to reflect their values. By emphasizing the importance of locally-sourced ingredients, The Marshal sends a message to customers that they support their community, value local small businesses, and want to protect the health of the environment and their customers. They source all of their menu items from local farmers, local wineries, and local distilleries to reduce carbon emissions when shipping.
What Their Customers Say
Noah Choi writes, “Quite possibly the best burger I have ever had: smoky flavor, very juicy, and with a bun that was literally oven-fresh.”
Bob Kirksey, a Google local guide, writes, “Farm to table at its finest. I travel 230 days a year. Good health makes my living. Food quality and tremendous flavor are what I seek.”
Susan Rosenthal, another Google local guide, writes, “A delicious gem of Farm to Table scrumptiousness.”
What Can We Learn From The Marshal?
Supporting your local community is always a great restaurant theme and business practice. No Farms, No Food, after all.
3. Keep It Simple
Centering your restaurant theme around one food item is a simple and effective branding tactic. It’s also a great way to generate repeat business with customers who will view you as their “go-to” for that specific product.
At Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Chicago, the name says it all; pies and biscuits are their game.
What Their Customers Say
Matthew Martin, a Google local guide, writes, “The Key Lime was probably the best I’ve ever had!”
Another reviewer's experience was a bit of a mixed bag. They write, “Food was good, not great. The biscuits were the best I’ve had at any restaurant period. Servings are terribly undersized, flavor was good.”
What Can We Learn From Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits?
Keeping your theme and menu simple can be a successful strategy, but it’s nothing if the quality of your product is so-so.
4. Vintage Upscale
If you want to incorporate some upscale flair in your restaurant theme, attention to detail is key.
Invest in some fancy bells and whistles to make your customers feel utterly aristocratic.
El Gaucho and AQUA by El Gaucho, both in Seattle, have a taste for the finer things. In addition to jazz on the piano and top-of-the-line service, this upscale restaurant serves a 28-day dry-aged steak and has a classy tuxedo staff.
What Their Customers Say
Jeanie writes, “The food and the view were amazing. The service was awful. We were there to celebrate our anniversary and our-less-than-attentive waiter didn’t add to the experience. Maybe they don’t care since their tip is already included in your bill.”
Here’s how El Gaucho responded: “Thank you for taking the time to review AQUA, Jeanie. While we are happy to hear you enjoyed the views and food we are terribly sorry to hear that you experienced sub par service. We strive to create an all-around memorable visit and we apologize we were wide of the mark in this regard.”
Jonji, another Facebook reviewer, writes, “Not my first rodeo here, and I must say service and food are always top notch!”
El Gaucho’s response: “Glad to hear it Jonji. Hope to see you again soon!”
What Can We Learn From El Gaucho?
Customer relationship management is essential to the success of your business. Responding to both positive and negative reviews, like El Gaucho does, is an easy way to show existing and potential customers alike and that you value their input, and their business.
If You Only Take One Thing Away From This Article...
Creating a phenomenal experience for your guests is so much more than just having a really cool restaurant theme. Didn't your mom teach you to never judge a book by its cover?
Your goal should be to have every guest walk away with great memories they’ll cherish and forever associate with your business.
The tables are set, covered with spotless poly-twill covers. The freezer is well-stocked with a fresh inventory of delectable foods waiting to be pan-fried, roasted, and broiled.
It appears as though your restaurant is ready to open for a curious – and especially hungry – public.
But... you’re still missing something.
That something is the soft opening: A limited, invite-only unveiling of your restaurant for friends, family, colleagues, and other close acquaintances. These are smaller, free events with a hand-picked guestlist where you have the option of making the full menu available, or merely serving certain appetizers, drinks, and meals you think will be fundamental to the menu.
Why You Should Do a Restaurant Soft Opening
Restaurants of all concepts can benefit from hosting a soft opening before their traditional grand opening. Below are four reasons why you should host a soft opening at your restaurant.
1) Build Hype
When the restaurant organizes a soft opening as a preview, the guests can help generate free publicity and awareness for the proper opening set to occur later.
Allowing guests to tell their friends and social media followers about their exclusive look at 'the hottest new restaurant in town' can certainly drum up interest for when you’re ready to officially open.
Reality TV star Kathy Wakile went the extra mile with her Italian restaurant’s soft opening – allowing dine in, takeout, anddelivery; if you have the staff capacity for it, going all out on these methods would certainly spread awareness as well.
2) Create Future Revenue
Soft openings are a great way to set yourself up for a temporary revenue stream down the line. Hand out coupons for certain discount percentages, BOGO deals, or other offers that are good for a specific date or block of dates in the future.
If your guests enjoy their free experience, they’ll certainly be willing to return with money in hand, and might even become a regular. They’ll also have something tangible to give to friends when talking about the restaurant, an incentive for them to take a risk on a new place and check it out.
It even works for the big chains: People were looking forward to returning to this Jackson, Michigan Buffalo Wild Wings location after their successful soft opening.
3) Preseason Practice
The restaurant soft opening is also a fantastic way to train employees and prepare them for business without sabotaging their tip potential. They’ll learn the ins and outs of your restaurant’s specific procedures and best practices, without actual payingcustomers to worry about.
Additionally, if any of the processes aren’t working to their full potential, like order input and output, POS systems, or inventory management, this is a perfect time to retool before customers get their official first taste. It’s also an opportunity for you as a manager to see what’s working efficiently and what isn’t. Maybe the cooking time is too long, or methods too complicated for certain dishes ; perhaps there can be furniture re-arrangements to maximize space and exit lanes for both servers and customers.
Georgette Frakas of Rotisserie Georgette knows the value of soft opening practices. "With all the people involved," she says, "I made sure to constantly reassert that message: This is about training."
How to Do a Restaurant Soft Opening
Now that you're sold on why to run a soft opening for your restaurant, let's go about how to do one.
1) Offer a Limited Menu
Your soft opening might be more manageable if you consider only offering select entrees, appetizers, drinks, and desserts from the menu. After all, there’s less mental preparation to worry about when only a few items are being prepped, cooked, and poured.
There are certainly benefits to having the full menu available, though. Patrons might develop an immediate favorite you didn’t expect to be received so well, and plan to come back soon to have it again.
2) Focus on Feedback
Guests can provide valuable feedback for all aspects of the business, from the food to the service to even the environment.
“[Soft openings] can endear people to feel more alignment with the restaurant because they feel they’re in the know,” says restaurant consultant Aaron Allen. Soft openings can be used not only to practice, but also to help people connect with the restaurant.”
At the end of the night, kindly ask guests to fill out a questionnaire in exchange for their free meal. It’s a great way to get outside perspective after working strictly with employees, managers, and independent contractors to get things up and running. Since your guests will predominantly be colleagues and friends, they likely want to see you succeed, and should be willing to provide actual constructive feedback for the restaurant moving forward.
3) Find the Red Flags
What are the downsides of a soft opening? The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks, but there are things to consider.
You want to ensure your guests have a good time and share their experiences online to spread awareness, but you do run the risk of competing restaurants stealing your creative property – whether that be menu items, ideas for decor pieces, or even table-and-chair arrangements. A competitor might already be open and able to fast-track it to public availability, beating you to the punch on opening day.
Don’t forget that real customers can be far more brutal than friends. There’s the chance your soft opening guests will be hesitant to criticize, so when real customers come through the door for the grand opening, there may be some reality checks in order. Ensure that after the feedback process, there isn’t anything that hasn’t been overlooked by either your own staff or the soft opening’s guests.
There’s also the aspect that your restaurant is operating to some degree without actually generating revenue. The soft opening is essentially optional overhead, a marketing expense that offers little in the short-term. While that may be true, you should view the soft opening as a long-term investment, where you're building awareness and possiblly future business, making it fiscally low-risk, but medium-to-high-reward.
Launching Your Restaurant Soft Opening
There’s considerable upside to doing a soft opening, as illustrated above. The benefits can act as a confidence boost for when the grand opening comes and the proper public makes their way in. You’ll have an advantage that will set things up for success right out of the gate.