The Restaurant Success Coach – I Need Help For My Local Restaurant
I can’t tell you how often we hear clients say “I need help for my local restaurant” because they don’t understand what they’re doing wrong, even while working exhaustively to avoid failure. You may find the latest news and statistics surprising, but just under 50% of all U.S. adults have actively worked in the hospitality industry at some point during life. And of restaurant employees that actively work in this business today, 46% say they would like to own their own restaurant someday. So it seems that the passion within this challenging field doesn’t dissuade restaurant professionals from dreaming of ownership and running their own hospitality enterprise!
So Why Do They Fail? So with 80% of restaurants failing within five years of opening, why do so many dream of opening their own restaurants? Moreover, why are those professionals who work in this business and witness the challenges and hardships none the wiser!
For business owners who say “I need help for my local restaurant”, given the seeming lack of sensibilities and enthusiasm, we offer tips for those that have the passion and fire to continue to dream the dream, and become the next restaurateur.
Focus on the Core Elements of Success. If you’re starting from scratch, keep in mind that the greatest mistake the new restaurateurs make is in signing a crap lease! Secondarily, location IS everything. And the last elements of Success for those that desire to become the next Danny Myer, is in securing great culinary talent (in food and cost controls) and a concept with legs. The bottom line is that NO restaurant will achieve success without a fair and equitable lease, a location that meets the standard requirements of traffic, demographics and potential consumers with disposable income, a concept that’s fresh and compelling, and of course, a talented chef.
These four pillars of success work elementally together. Diving a little deeper, the location you choose must be aligned with the concept itself; nothing screams restaurant success like a frozen yogurt shop in Anchorage Alaska! What is also essential is that the chef hired must be well versed in your concept, otherwise you’ll constantly deal with the issues associated with a menu and culture that lacks clarity, passion, quality and authenticity among the guests in your restaurant business. To hire a classically trained French Chef to lead a southern Barbecue joint may seem reasonable, what’s missing is intent and intimate connection to cuisine and brand authenticity.
Many hospitality entrepreneurs initially believe and say, “location doesn’t really matter because I plan to create a destination restaurant.” Although this is possible and has been done, it’s the Las Vegas method of success in our business, as it’s hard to become a destination without beginning with a great location; for many who believe in this rationale, it’s a roll of the dice. As restaurant success coaches, Internet marketing, and branding specialists, we’ve seen more talented and hard working entrepreneurs, fail in spite of their talents and hustle.
Keys to Restaurant Success
Exposure and visibility is everything for start-ups and newcomers to this business. The more accessible your restaurant is relative to location, street visibility and natural market traffic, the greater are your chances of success. When analyzing successful restaurants, you’ll find that the prevalent attributes are location, visibility, brand, and a sound price/value equation. The reason that fast casual concepts have exploded over the past decade is that they’re incredibly approachable from each of the aforementioned characteristics. They’ve offered the modern consumer an environment that feels warn, robust and experiential, while allowing them to dine out more often due to lower price points and reasonable quality of cuisine. The restaurant success coach of the 21st Century understands that these four key attributes must be the sole focus of the new restaurant business before the concept; menu or staffing considerations are even on the entrepreneur’s radar!
Always overestimate the capital requirements regarding cash for build out and reserves. The planning of opening a restaurant is no time to be an optimist! As experienced restaurateurs will tell you, if you want to make a small fortune in this business, start with a large fortune! Any new local restaurant venture should make it a point to have nine to twelve months of working capital before they sign the lease! You literally won’t believe the frequency of delays in build-out, how quickly costs accelerate, and how long it takes for a new restaurant to ramp up to become a known and trusted addition to your local residents and guests.
It’s not unusual for a new restaurant to experience a downturn in business following the “honeymoon” period and initial excitement. Unless you have a superior and well-thought out/planned Internet Marketing, Social Media and Local Marketing Outreach plan in place well before opening, the downturn is almost always inevitable. This period best represents the time when reserve capital is essential, and often the only remaining lifeline of a new restaurant. In opening upward of 50 new concepts and specialty retail concepts over the years, I’ve seen modified versions of this reality, but not once did reserve capital not come to rescue a new hospitality concept.
Regardless of restaurant success, brand recognition, popularity or performance relative to efficient use of capital (human and financial) there is always a recovery period when sales won’t cover total expenses (cost of goods, labor, operating expenses, marketing) for a period of two to six months. The key is not to panic, worry or doubt, but continue to externally market, use brand ambassadors to tell your story and leverage Facebook & Twitter to expose your brand to the entire world.
There are actually many restaurateurs that heed this sage advice of successful hospitality operators past, and launch with sufficient reserve cash, but they burn their reserves, thinking the opening honeymoon period will continue uninterrupted, which is rarely the case. This is most often the main reason that the majority of restaurants fail! Those that need help for their local restaurants, realize that they need help for their local restaurant business, have at least taken the first step toward recovery and success! Savvy operators never let initial success go to their head and cloud their vision or discipline. Success can only be determined after the first five years, where discipline, hard work, attention to detail and determination ensure success!
Restaurant Culture & Entertainment
Find your passion to inspire, teach and transform the people that work with you. To become the change that you want to experience in yourself, you must find a desire and deep passion to take those around you to higher levels of expertise and awareness! Whether experienced, amateur, or simply impressionable, you have the ability and responsibility to transform others through the way in which you empower them to change themselves as well as those they work with and for your guests. Educating, teaching, training, coaching and inspiring the people around you can become your life’s work!
As a consultant, I don’t spend much time within kitchen or front of house operators anymore, but I do have the opportunity to teach and educate others in a way that empowers them to move upward in career aspirations. That is for many, the rewarding benefit of what we do.
Doing something new for you and others is always inspiring. Helping to shape the business and your future is inspiring as well. Everyone hospitality business owner loves the sexiness of restaurant ownership, they have a passion for cuisine and new flavors–they enjoy the hands on nature of working with the front-house staff and wait staff. When you’ve created a culture where your staff loves to come to work, and has in intrinsic passion to ‘perform’, not work, you’re U.S. sweet spot as a business, brand and owner!
One main lesson for owners and entrepreneurs is to NEVER skimp on extending the value for the guest. The essential investment that a business owner can make is that which adds value guest. Most newbies and even experienced operators make mistakes in those early stages of time in this business. Cutting corners on equipment, build-out, design and especially location. This shortsighted approach never pays off, as everything that touches a guest is critical to that experience, and value that they attribute to your brand.
Budget two to three percent of sales revenue to invest back into facility improvements that make a difference guest experience and that enhance the brand experience. Don’t be afraid to invest in giveaways and gift cards that are complimentary to those that are loyal to your brand.
Make sure to invest as much as you can in Internet Marketing, Social Media, video promotions and guest experience in general. Invest in the guests and fans that frequent your restaurant, because they are the best marketing investment you’ll ever make, and that’s the best way to generate genuinely positive word of mouth.
Focus on implementing organization and systems that provide metrics and tangible results. Not implementing operational systems is without a doubt, the single greatest mistake that independent restaurant owners make. If you’re not skilled in disciplines of operating the actual business on a financial and performance metric perspective, find a partner that is, or outsource it to a trusted partner service! Failing here alone, can be the single greatest contributor to the death of new businesses.
This is quite often the reason that even average operators and small chain restaurants often succeed and even thrive: Every long-term success story began as a new and humble restaurant. Each opened with a talented culinary talent, a well-conceived concept, and a great, or at least better than average location. They also developed quality systems that enabled them to build quality guest experience; they retained key employees, and found ways to actually make a profit!
That is what most often leads to opening the second, third and thirtieth restaurant. One popular myth of our business is that “organization” kills creativity, passion and spirit of innovation. Implementing effective and easy to execute systems in fact provides the freedom to be creative and adaptable to remain fresh and innovative!
Be prepared to innovate and adapt to trends, change and consumer wants and needs. Most businesses begin with an innovative idea for a service or product. Seldom does that business become a long-term success unless there’s a partner or influence that offers complementary thinking or abilities.
As a modern and innovative restaurateur, your focus should be directed on people and effective communication. It’s difficult for me at times for example to not focus on the culinary arts, which were the root of my career and experience, but I realized that I’m most effective today from a global perspective due to my expertise and experience in finance, operations, marketing, compliance and training. I’ve decided that I provide real value through teaching, coaching and inspiring while correcting performance in real time, while delegating and course correcting. When realizing this, I knew that I had reached a new level of self-awareness and capacity to impact results for clients.
Quality restaurant success coaches can easily identify those who need help in their local restaurant concepts. The top business owners and achievers realize at some point during career evolution, that they should surround themselves with individuals who are smarter than they are, as I did. As a business owner the smartest thing you can do is partner with others who have skills, experience and education through failure that you don’t—and provide them with a mission, the “Why” that compels them to leverage their skills and abilities to transform themselves through the success of your business!
Modern Food Arts Consulting is a professional boutique consulting team that has supported our client partners for more than a decade. With expertise in Marketing, Finance, Creative Menu & Design, our team is one of the most respected and effective consulting groups in the country.
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