By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert
There is a strange duality of restaurants. The restaurant industry can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding. There are times when you will be over-the-top and never question why you choose this path.
On the other hand, the restaurant industry can also be relentless and merciless. There are times when you will feel like the weight of it all is crushing down upon you and you might even want to quit. Don’t. When the weight of it seems heavy, examine these five keys areas that could be causing this pressure and here’s how to break free from it.
1. Your Social Media Marketing
Social media is here to stay. Embrace it and use it to keep your brand top-of-mind. The problem with most restaurants’ social media tactics is that they use it to sell. They post the same boring stuff, usually their specials. The problem is that every other restaurant in your market is posting the same thing: their specials. If you don't dare to stand out in your market, you will blend in with the crowd. Social media platforms are like the ocean, and if you are just posting the same things every day, it would be like throwing a rock into that ocean and thinking you’ll make a wave. It’s not going to happen.
The main thing to focus on to be successful in social media is your guests. Yes, shift your social media to less about your restaurant and more about them. You need to become more “social” if you really want to tap into the pure power that these platforms offer. In social media marketing, this is known as engagement and it is everything. Don't worry about how many followers you have. Worry about how many people engage with your brand. Social media can become a shield, so you’ll have to make the first move. Reach out and say the two most powerful words you can say: Thank you.
You'll also have to make the adjustment to how people like their social media. In this new year, that means video! Snapchat became huge in 2016 and others followed quickly with Instagram Stories and Instagram Live. Facebook also has a live video feed function that will become the g- to for social media interaction. If you fail to adapt and embrace the video wave coming, you will be soon left behind. If you refuse to make a choice, a choice will be made for you.
2. Your Bad Hires
There is a storm coming in 2017 and it’s rising labor issues. Yes, it is scary and it is a concern for many. However, do we really have a war for talent or is it more of a war with talent? Many hold onto bad hires with bad attitudes and they keep them on the payroll for fear not being able to replace them. What is fear really? Think of what F.E.A.R. stands for as an acronym.
The problem with fear is that it paralyzes people into not taking action. Fear kills restaurants. Fear will keep your restaurant in same place because you are afraid of the future.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca
If you have bad hires on your team, you need to do them a favor and let them go. If people are not happy at their work, they should be allowed to find something that makes them happy. We all deserve to be happy. When you keep bad hires on your payroll because you are afraid to run short-staffed, then you are being selfish and not looking out for the long-term health of your brand. Yes, running a restaurant on a smaller team is a challenge. However, it is a better option than the negative energy that bad hires bring along like the Black Plague.
That is why a solid recruiting plan must be in place. You must always be searching for top talent. Remember earlier how we talked about social media posts being mostly self-centered? Well, most restaurants only recruit when they need to fill a spot on the team. You will need to up your recruiting game in this new year if you want to draw in better people for your team.
3. Your Menu
Okay, when was the last time you...
- Updated your menu pricing?
- Cost out your menu?
- Analyzed the product mix report from your POS system?
Too many restaurants cannot truly say that they have done all three within the last six months. That is really sad. Your menu is your number one marketing and profitability tool and most do not treat it as such. Maybe you think foie gras French toast with blackberry syrup is cool. Do your guests buy it enough and is it profitable enough to justify having a menu spot?
With the aforementioned rising labor cost issues coming, you will need to really dial into your menu to be a profit machine. Do you think you know what your guests want? Don't guess. Use the data from your product mix report, or even better, ask them!
You’ll need to streamline your menu to be more efficient and effective. Cut out the fluff and get back to the basics. When designing menus, here is an easy question to ask yourself:
Yes or no? If it is not a resounding “Hell Yes”, then it is a no. Those “no’s” must come off.
4. Your Discounts
Restaurants are competitive. Everyone wants to offer a better deal than the restaurant down the street in order to drive people in their door. This is a deadly game to play. When you start discounting your product, you devalue your brand. Basically, you become a commodity in your market. The problem with becoming a commodity? Commodities are purchased purely on price and not on value.
So, how can the restaurant draw in people without playing the discount game? Try creating value-driven appetizers at a lower price point. A popular theme is the 5 For $5 happy hour menu. Perhaps during slow week days, you offer a three-course prix fixe menu. You can create value while still maintaining your quality and standards. You just have to become creative and avoid getting drawn into a pricing war with the other restaurants in your market.
5. Your Attitude
Twenty percent of restaurant success is systems and strategy. The other 80 percent is all psychological. Yes, you are your biggest problem and you are also your biggest solution to all the problems your restaurant is experiencing. If that statement makes you feel uneasy, good. If you want the restaurant you know it can become, then you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Answer the following questions honestly:
- Do you expect more from yourself than you do from your team?
- Do you make mistakes and blame others or do you take personal accountability?
- Do you like your team?
- Do you like your guests?
- Do you feel you have control of your restaurant?
If you were honest, then some of the answers might not make you happy. Once again, this is a good thing because self-awareness precedes choice and choice precedes change. If you want to take your restaurant to the next level, you’re going to have to make some better choices and change some habitual habits that have held you back.
One of the best things you can do is reconnect to those feelings and memories of when you first started your restaurant. Being in the restaurant industry is definitely a long-term relationship. Just like any relationship, your restaurant goes through its ups and downs. Remember that special someone and the excitement you felt when you first started dating? You had a spring in your step. You are filled with energy. You thought about them all the time. Then as time went on, you became comfortable and that excitement went from a boil to a simmer. Relationships can be rekindled by tapping back into those original emotions. Maybe you need to fall back in love with your restaurant and your career!
The new year is here and with it comes 365 days of new opportunity. The question is: Are you going to rise to the challenge and push yourself beyond your comfort zone, or just wait and hope that this year is better than last year?
Just remember that hope is not a strategy you want to invest in.