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The 3 secrets behind turning a sad restaurant into a successful one

We all know that the hospitality industry is tough, fickle and highly competitive. Staying cash-positive, let alone becoming wildly successful, is a challenge and means keeping a close eye on everything you do. I recently chatted to a client who is one of Melbourne’s top restaurateurs. He already owns five extremely popular venues, and is planning to expand even more. I asked him how he does it – what’s the secret behind his success in turning failing establishments into highly profitable businesses? While in hindsight his answers may seem obvious, it’s surprising how often the basics are overlooked. So, let’s get started:

The Menu

Your menu is the first introduction to your food. It sets the scene and creates expectations among your guests. If they can understand it, that is.

  • Keep it simple! Use an easy-to-read typeface and a clear, well-designed layout so your patrons can navigate your menu at a glance. Don’t make them search!
  • Don’t be too clever. No-one likes to be intimidated, so avoid overly complex or pretentious food descriptions unless they’re truly appropriate to your restaurant and the type of diner you cater for.
  • Proofread it! Then ask someone else to check it again. Nothing screams “amateur” or “we don’t care” like typos and sloppy grammar.

The Food

It’s no good relying on a couple of standout dishes (unless that’s really all you are planning to serve). Every dish you offer must taste great.

  • Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Are your vegetarian options mediocre, lacking in imagination or effort? Are your salads substandard, are they wilted, or will they wow? Do you have appealing options for child-sized appetites? Do your desserts sound divine on paper but disappoint on delivery?
  • Be your own toughest food critic. Your entire menu must taste great. Each dish served should provoke food envy across the table, so – be honest with yourself. Is each option as good as the last, or is the standard inconsistent? Would you be proud to bring your own friends and family here?

The Speed

Your patrons are more time-poor than ever before. Yes, they still want a great dining experience, but they simply have less time for it. And they have social media at their fingertips to comment unfavourably on any unreasonable delay.

  • Fast food (no, not the takeaway kind!). Ensure your dishes can be prepared and perfectly plated in a reasonable time. Streamline the process between taking the order and delivering it to the table.
  • Have your wait staff advise the guests if a particular dish takes longer than others to prepare, and check that your kitchen knows if someone’s in a rush.

If things aren’t looking that great at your place, step back and take a reality check. Menu. Food. Speed. Are you scoring 3 out of 3?

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