Succeeding in the restaurant industry can be a difficult task. An expert overview from Perry Group International shows the majority of restaurants fail in the first year. Of the restaurants that survive the first year, 70% fail within the next 3 to 5 years. We here at foodjunky work directly with thousands of successful restaurants across the country, and those relationships allow us to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t. Now we’re passing that info along to you. Here’s our list of 10 Things Every Restaurant Should Be Doing in 2017.
1. Check Customer Reviews: Services like Yelp and TripAdvisor have given customers a platform to speak their minds, and speak their minds they do. Yelp alone has more than 120 million cumulative user reviews on their site. You and your team should be checking these reviews weekly, if not daily. Guests are giving you access to what they do and don’t like about your restaurant. Take full advantage of that information.
2. Engage on Social Media: Social media is a direct link to your customers’ attention, but just having an account on the top platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) isn’t enough. You’re missing out on free brand awareness if you aren’t posting at least a few times a week. Customers love seeing that their favorite restaurant is managed by people with fun, relevant things to say. Post pictures of your most popular dishes. Announce deals and promotions just for your followers so they feel a sense of exclusivity. Highlight positive reviews and testimonials. Anything you can do to engage current / potential customers on social media will ultimately increase your brand awareness and drive up order volume.
3. Anonymously Order Takeout from Your Restaurant: This might sound ridiculous but it’s actually very beneficial. The ordering process has a lot of moving parts which means your customer experience can almost always be improved. Maybe your employees could be more friendly when answering the phone or a bug in your online ordering system is causing a high bounce rate. You won’t know what improvements need to be implemented unless you test the process yourself. Make sure you do it anonymously so you get the full, unedited customer experience. Place at least one anonymous order per month if possible.
4. Communicate with Your Team: One of the biggest issues I come across when working with restaurants is a lack of communication among the team. Everyone can’t be up to date on all aspects of the restaurant, but make a concerted effort to insure the staff is on the same page when it comes to the big picture details. No one on your team should have to second guess your menu items, pricing, third-party partnerships, etc. Customers ask a lot of questions. Don’t assume your employees know the answers just because you do. Instead, give them the tools and information they need to better assist the guest. This added communication will keep your staff confident and your customers satisfied. Weekly team meetings are a must in order to keep everyone up to date.
5. Have a Foolproof System in Place for Future Orders: It’s easy to take down a catering order for next month and say, “There’s no way I’ll forget about an $800 order. I’ll just put this to the side for now.” Risky move. Not only for the obvious reason that a large catering order brings in a lot of revenue for the restaurant, but because this customer is likely to place more large orders in the future. If they place a similar order with you every month, that’s $9,600 in additional revenue for the year. Why leave even a 1% chance of that being overlooked? Eliminate the risk of human error by implementing a foolproof system for keeping track of future orders. Many POS systems have the ability to set reminders for upcoming orders so if yours does, take full advantage of that feature. Even low-tech methods like hanging up a calendar for future orders could be the difference between getting or losing thousands of dollars in additional revenue every month.
6. Label Takeout Orders by Name/Item: This is a super simple task that goes a long way for the customer. When an order is clearly for more than one person, train your team to label the food. Many ordering platforms like foodjunky send group orders with the names of who ordered what. If you have access to that information, use it. Label every entree, side, drink, dessert, etc. with the name of who ordered it. Heck, even label the napkins (not really). This will save your customers a great deal of time and hassle when unpacking their food, and the extra attention to detail will not go unnoticed. If you don’t have access to everyone’s names, at least label the food by item. There’s nothing worse than getting lunch for 15 people and having to spend 10 minutes opening everything to figure out who got what. Don’t put your customers through that when it’s so easily avoided.
7. Collect Email Addresses (and Use Them): Email might seem like an antiquated way of marketing to your customers, but it’s highly effective. According to Entrepreneur, 73 percent of companies consider email marketing a core part of their business efforts while 25 percent rate it as their top channel in terms of return on investment. Email is great because it’s affordable, customizable and direct. Plus, services like MailChimp make it easier than ever to manage contacts, design emails and coordinate campaigns. Don’t have any of your customers’ email addresses? It’s never too late to start collecting. Put out a bowl where they can drop their business cards to enter a monthly raffle. Start a rewards program where they get a discount for submitting their email address. Your list will start growing in no time. Remember: Your customers should always be aware that you are collecting their email address with the intention of marketing to them. Emailing them without their permission can get you dropped from ESP’s like MailChimp.
8. Put Thought Into Your Takeout Menu: More often than not, your takeout menu and your dine-in menu shouldn’t be identical. Some food just doesn’t transport well. If something on your menu might be better suited for dine-in only, don’t hesitate to leave it off the takeout menu. Your customers won’t mind a smaller selection if it means their food will arrive intact and well-presented.
9. Invest in Reliable, Spill-Free Packaging: Piggybacking off #8, we order delivery pretty regularly in the office here. I can’t tell you how many times our food has come crushed/spilled. I get that accidents happen sometimes. No harm, no foul. It’s a different story when the food comes delivered in flimsy containers and spills all over the rest of the bag. Quality takeout packaging is often overlooked, so invest the extra money in protecting your customer’s purchase. They’ll notice the extra attention to detail and it will be a worthwhile investment if it keeps even a few customers coming back.
10. Embrace Technology: Tech is progressing at a pretty unbelievable rate and it can be difficult to keep up. Sure there’s a learning curve, but embracing technology is very beneficial to your restaurant. According to Toast’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Report, 51% of adults use smartphones or tablets to place online orders with restaurants and 80% of restaurant operators agree that technology helps increase sales. In short, you are almost certainly missing out on additional revenue if you aren’t embracing technology in your restaurant. One way to take advantage of the tech trend is to incorporate online ordering into your operations. But online ordering is expensive and difficult to implement, right? Not at all. foodjunky is an online ordering platform that’s entirely free to restaurants and doesn’t require any changes to your current operations. Click here to download our free onboarding packet for more info.