10 Things People Don’t Tell You About Running A Successful Restaurant

December 29, 2016  |  

Let’s face it, we’ve all been to restaurants where the food was great, but the service stunk. Or perhaps the service was great, but the food was off. Whatever the case, you’re not going back, and not long after- POOF- the place is gone! Sadly, this happens more than we know. According to statistics, 60 % of all new restaurants fail within the first 3 years, and the majority don’t make it past the 1st year. Why? There are many factors. Sometimes owners have a great concept, but for some reason they miss the basics.

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Not the case with Michelle Herndon, partner at Formento’s, a popular Italian restaurant in Chicago. As operating partner, Michelle is in the trenches making a lot of the day-to-day decisions that can make or break a restaurant. Her background as a server, hostess, event planner and manager- at one point she stepped in and significantly increased the revenue of one of Michael Jordan’s Chicago restaurants- is key. Soooooo, if you’re planning to turn those delicious family recipes into a full-on restaurant, or you already have a restaurant and doubling your revenue sounds like a great idea, here are 10 things people don’t tell you about running a successful restaurant from someone who actually runs a successful restaurant.

1) Be A Professional Problem Solver

While preparation is key, no day is ever the same and you have to be ready for the unknown. The plumber can leave a valve loose and the worst smell can come seeping into the dining room 5 minutes before opening, but you’ve got to remain composed and focused on the solution. Embrace it as the rhythm of a restaurant and work through the problem. It takes patience and focus. It may feel as if you’re failing everyday, but it’s just a challenge. Eventually, you start to build off of what you’re doing well.

2) Hospitality Is Everything

The food and the ambiance can be average, but the experience you give your guests is everything. You’re creating memories for people so you want them to say, ‘Wow, they made me feel so good!’ One way to do this is by paying attention and really listening to what your guests are asking for. Are they there for business? A birthday party? Remember that people have options so the stakes are always high. It’s all about how you make people feel.

3) Be authentic And Give People What They Want

From a food perspective, a lot of up and coming chefs want to be authentic in their style of cuisine, and that’s great, but sometimes it doesn’t line up with the restaurant or the guest’s desires. Sometimes you just have to give people their spaghetti and meatballs because a steady stream of revenue is important, as money solves a lot of a restaurant’s problems. Maintain a balance between the creative dishes, and your winners.

4) Manage Money Down To The Last Paper Clip

Every dime of a restaurant has to be managed and that’s a very micro process. The weekly budget goes out and you can’t go over it. If, for example, the chef goes over the food budget, he or she must explain why. A lot of restaurants fail because they are not controlling their costs.

5) Don’t Go Into The Restaurant Business Looking To Make Money

Restaurants are a tough business so you must have a passion for it. If you want to make money and have an easy job, it’s not for you. Nine times out of 10 you break even, if you make a profit, beautiful!

6) Do Your Research

There are a lot of people who have great information on restaurants and hospitality. Read about people like Danny Meyer of Union Sq. Hospitality Group, visit other restaurants, and go out to eat often. Be a sponge because the learning never stops.

7) Be Consistent

The restaurant business is a repeat business so consistency is everything. If you go to a restaurant for a dish that you love and it fails, you’re not likely to go back again. The same can be said for hospitality.

8) Review the Reviews

Word of mouth is the cheapest form of marketing and we now have social media that can work for or against us. We get a report that gathers all the reviews from different sources everyday so if we see the same negative thing popping up we have the opportunity to change it. If we see the same positive things we know what we’re doing right.

9) Nurture All Relationships In Your Restaurant

We have a trilogy. How can we serve the business, the guests and the employee? It has to be balanced everyday because if employees don’t feel satisfied and taken care of it’s a problem. My ability to form relationships has a lot to do with making people feel good, from the general manager to the dishwasher. That means looking them in the eyes, saying their names and relating to them. They’re giving you a hard day’s work and you have to respect each position, as they are all a part of making it happen.

10) The Difference Between a Good Restaurant and a Great One Is Recovery

A good restaurant can nail every night and everyone is happy. A great restaurant will have a challenging night where a guest was really upset, but they managed to turn it around. All people want is for you to be held accountable. So own it, fix it, and make it right.

Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey with her husband and two kids. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or visit ErickkaSySavane.com

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