Establishing and running a restaurant in the 21st century is not what it used to be. Even in the last decade, the industry has undergone tremendous change. Restaurant owners must be ready to adapt as their customers become increasingly knowledgeable, dine out more frequently and expect higher standards and a faster service.
With a growing number of Americans dining out every year, competition is fierce and technology has made it possible for restaurants to provide a hybrid eat-in/take-out/home-delivery service all in one.
Websites empower customers by allowing them to peruse a restaurant’s menu, before they have even set foot inside. Rather than call up the restaurant, customers can use automated online booking systems to view availability.
Having an online presence can enhance your brand and build trust with future customers. Your website is in your control, meaning you can market your restaurant business positively and showcase your brand and popular menu choices. Websites are simple to set up and cost as little as a few dollars per month.
Reviews and social media
A growing trend has emerged whereby customers check online reviews before deciding whether to make a reservation. With no way to regulate customer reviews, one spurious or negative review can adversely affect your restaurant’s rating. Plus, there is no guarantee that those customers who did enjoy their experience will leave a review at all. Consider incentivizing your happy customers to leave a review, by offering them a freebie or 10% off their next visit.
You can set up social media pages for your restaurant business for free, enabling your customers to interact with you online by asking questions and providing feedback. This can help your restaurant better understand its clientele, paving the way for improved future service and customer satisfaction.
Having a social media account can also be an effective way to deal with negative online reviews. It gives you the chance to respond and demonstrate to prospective customers that you care and are prepared to go the extra mile.
With online food delivery services on the rise, it has never been easier for customers to order their favorite food to their doorstep. While considering this option could result in more business for your restaurant, make sure you have the resources in place to handle the potential increase in orders. You still need to maintain quality and service to your dining-in customers, as well as delivering the same standards to your online customers on time.
With clients becoming more concerned about moral and ethical issues, such as the environment, sustainability and treatment of animals, transparency and responsible practices are important considerations for any restaurant business.
Whilst it is by no means compulsory, it can be advantageous to your brand if you can demonstrate that you buy your meat from grass-fed, free range, wild-caught and antibiotic-free sources. If you have sufficient budget, consider obtaining your food from organically certified and sustainable sources to reassure your customers and give you a competitive edge.
Satisfied staff result in higher quality service to your customers. Communicate with your staff regularly and ask them for feedback and suggestions. They will feel valued as a result and more invested in the success of the business.
Catering to vegetarians and vegans
Catering to wider tastes is vital and will improve your restaurant’s popularity. Even at the meatiest of eateries, customers have come to expect at least one vegetarian and/or vegan option for each course on the menu.
As a restaurant owner, you also owe a duty to your customers to highlight allergens such as nuts, gluten, milk and soy that may be present in food and be able to provide suitable, allergen-free options.
Creating a customer experience
Knowingly or otherwise, even the simplest, family-run restaurant creates a customer experience. It doesn’t have to be an all-singing all-dancing affair. It’s all about the atmosphere you create at your restaurant and the feelings and memories your customers associate with your brand.
Positive and negative experiences alike will induce feelings and emotions in your customers, which research shows has more impact than your restaurant’s logo or color scheme.
Exceptional customer service is at the heart of running a restaurant business in today’s climate. Going into the restaurant industry will mean marrying your passions with what it is that customers are looking for.
Author: Bruce Hakutizwi, USA and International Accounts Director for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses.