Industry alert! The number of restaurant start-ups and seats is now officially outpacing population growth. We need to deal with the fall out of this scary statistic, and now. Here’s a few things that might help.
- Unless you have a mountain of money behind you, if you’ve never worked in the industry, don’t buy yourself a job. Certainly not in hospitality. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: putting on a bandaid does not make you a brain surgeon. And if you like to dine out, cook, or just eat, then between that and owning a restaurant, the gap is that large. Really.
- The graph of course doesn’t take into account the increasing number of restaurant visits that have been a factor for a few years now. As our population has more disposable income, habits change. With the rising cost of homes in Australia, some millennials are even ditching the home owner dream for lifestyle. The dream of home owning has long been almost non-existent in Europe, as property was traditionally in the hands of wealthy families. People rent, live in cities mostly, and dine out often. And in the USA. But Australia? We hung on to that dream until for many, now it’s a nightmare.
- Many of these start-up restaurants are small, focus on take-away and hedge their bets with clever management, low rents and laser-like customer focus. More power to them, and it’s great to see so many settle on their niche and doing it bloody well.
- But what about the others? Restaurants trying to be all things to all people? Fatal. Forget it. We may want personal choices (thanks Seinfeld for introducing an era of ‘me’ and ‘I want’), but we also want good food, at a reasonable price, with great service, in comfortable surroundings. So how do restaurants achieve all this and stay afloat?
- Restaurants these days need to plan and move with the times. I tell my clients they have to factor in a big revamp every two years, or they risk becoming part of the cricket landscape in the noise of new start-ups.
- Just have a business model of training your new staff, monitoring their performance, and pathways to advancement. It’s not that hard, but it needs to be done.
- Make sure there is a respectful, comfortable link between BOH (Back of House) and FOH (Front of House). If I hear one more waiter tell me, “Err, I don’t know what the fish is like, I haven’t had that here,” I will shoot them, and then go after the management.
- When you design the restaurant, don’t forget the ceiling! You would be amazed at how much ‘ceiling time’ customers put in, and an alive, active part of the design it should be.
- Do your research now. Use Social Media, anything, to find out what your customers want and then do your best to give it to them. Not what you think they’d like, this is not all about you unless you’re Heston or Marco. And they’ll tell you why they spend so much time promoting themselves as a brand – because their Michelin starred restaurants don’t make that much money. Even with at least 50% free staff. (That’s the Stage System, and I’ll get stuck into that another time).
- And what do I say to you, our customers? What can you do to stem the tide of failures in an industry you love to have on tap?
Speak up! Speak out!
If something is really bad, or shoddy, tell the business. Nicely of course, and if they appreciate your honesty, give them another chance. Saying nothing and not coming back changes nothing! It just lets them die a slow death, and all restaurants have bad nights. Even the best.