The National Restaurant Association estimated $799 billion in total revenue for the entire industry within 2017, and that reflects a growth rate of approximately 1.7 percent when accounting for inflation.
NRA senior VP, B. Hudson Riehle, admits that it’s been slow growing for the industry the past few years, and macroeconomics indicate that trend will continue into 2018.
Slow upward trends don’t mean restaurant owners can’t be successful this year, though, especially if they implement best practices and top tips.
First, know what your food costs are and understand the total cost that goes into each dish. Once you know that cost, you can correctly price menu items to ensure profit.
Do what you can to bring food costs down by shopping smart and thinking creatively, but be careful about squelching quality in a quest for lower pricing. Customers may be willing to pay a bit more for high-quality dishes.
Any food you don’t plate up for customers is food that you paid for but didn’t profit from. Plan carefully when stocking ingredients and whipping up bulk batches. Use data from previous days and years to understand how much food you might need at a given time so you aren’t serving costly dishes into the dumpster.
Waste can also occur in the labour arena, and data and ongoing monitoring is important here too. Over staffing means paying people who don’t have customers to serve; under staffing means pushing workers too hard and potentially angering diners with poor quality or long wait times. Keep your wage bill in line with restaurant needs by making data-backed scheduling decisions and changes on the fly as needed.
Use content, such as pictures of your menu items and mouth-watering blog posts and descriptions, to attract online searchers. Engage customers on social platforms so they remember your establishment when they’re hungry, and always ensure your online marketing is mobile-friendly. Many people search online using mobile devices before dining out, and around 85 percent of them go on to complete a purchase based on what they find.
Local foods are a big trend right now; customers like to support local businesses, and there’s a perception that local ingredients are fresher and less processed. If you source from local vendors and farmers, say so; include it on your menus, write about it on social media, and say so on your website.
Organic, gluten-free, natural, healthy: these are all buzzwords for the clean-eating trend. When possible, offer menu options inline with some of these preferences and needs; even a burger joint can offer a gluten-free sandwich and side option that is more healthy than fries. Providing one or two healthy choices lets people choose your establishment even if they’re counting calories.
Ensure you and your staff understand any compliance requirement for your industry, niche, and location, and take time everyday to ensure your establishment is within compliance. While it might take a bit of time or money to do so, that’s nothing compared to the revenue loss and expense you could incur if you’re hit with warnings, fines, or sanctions from government agencies.
Finally, don’t just dish up food. Create an experience for your customers. Whether you serve comfort food in a cozy, friendly environment, exotic fare in a sophisticated salon, or something else, the ambience matters almost (but never as much) as the food.
Now it’s your turn. Is your restaurant running at a profit? Leave a comment below.
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