Running a successful restaurant involves some crucial aspects beyond the obvious concerns of location, type of cuisine, rent and utilities. What matters most is your food, your staff and you, at the personal level. If done the right way, your restaurant will thrive and stay on top.
Here are three critical factors that will propel your restaurant to the next level above the competition:
1. A strong food identity.
Your food is your identity. You first must portray yourself in a very definable way to your customers so they can equate you as the "go to -- fill in the blank with your cuisine." Failure to define yourself is a huge mistake when trying to separate yourself from your competition. For example, there are a bunch of Italian restaurants out there, which means there has to be something about your food that makes it stand out if you're offering Italian cuisine.
How can you make your food kick-ass?
- Uniqueness. Get people's attention with original dishes. If you can make traditional dishes just 10 percent better, you'll have an inspiring and stimulating palette your customers will get excited about.
- Go local. Get some local farm fresh produce. Not only are you bringing in very fresh ingredients, you are supporting the local economy. Customers will take notice.
- Don't be cheap. Spend the money on a chef. I don't care if you obtain the best ingredients in the world, without a seasoned, proven chef, you are doomed. Make the wise investment and hire someone great
2. A stand-out staff.
You need to hire people who have a passion for the industry, a sense of urgency when handling customers and a willingness to be part of your team. The service experience is right up there with food when it comes to the top two elements to a magnificent dining experience. They need to be working in sync because if they are not, you could end up with Yelp reviews that minimally praise the food but ruthlessly criticize the service. Your customers want to not only eat good food. They want to be treated like royalty.
How can you be kick-ass with your staff?
- Create a process. Create employee manuals containing your processes and procedures, and ensure they are updated regularly. This gives your staff a way to succeed as a unified team moving in the same direction. There is nothing worse than attempting to manage a bunch of individuals trying to do the same thing, each in their own way.
- Train them well. Your staff has to know their job. Ensure your staff gets thorough book training on procedures along with on-the-job training complete with food tasting and menu education. Basic training should also include job shadowing a veteran staff member. Don’t stop there. Expose the staff member to other job roles, which will allow for position flexibility in case someone can't show up for work and leaves you hanging.
- Solicit their feedback. Stay communicating and more importantly, don't stop listening. Give real-time feedback and think of yourself as a coach to your team. You don't have to portray yourself as almighty. Look beyond your ego and start putting your people first.
3. A personality people love.
Restaurants don't fail, people fail. As the owner, you are the "people." Whatever happens under your flag is your doing. That could be hiring a manager who underperformed or dictating a menu that was too long and complicated. The responsibility at the end of the day rests on your shoulders.
How can you be kick-ass with yourself?
- Self-reflect regularly. The toughest thing for you to do is self-critique. It is not in our nature to tell ourselves we are wrong. As a leader, it's okay to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be exposed. That doesn't make you weak; it actually makes you more authentic and respectable.
- Ask for feedback. Ask your managers and staff for honest feedback. Let it be known that honesty is the only way for you to improve as a manager and leader. And don't forget your staff extends further than just managers and servers. You should be listening to your line cooks just as much as your executive chef. Customer feedback is also very important to the growth and development of your restaurant. Let it be known that you want to know what customers think to make their experience better.
- Keep growing. You can always improve. What's more, your staff has great ideas, so ask them. Your business needs to keep growing to thrive and it's vitally important you grow with it.
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The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.