When you opened your restaurant you had big dreams and a plan. Then there was a change in the market and perhaps your plan went astray. It happens. Actually, it happens all the time. Many restaurant owners get stuck during those challenges. They lose their faith and become prey to self-doubt.
Then comes the friendly advice from a “friend” (even though they have never owned a business themselves). Out of desperation, you listen. You add this and that, hoping to revive your brand. It might get a few new customers in the door, however the more you stray away from your original brand identity, the more customers you lose. It becomes a very turbulent ride. Welcome to the slow death of your restaurant brand.
So, what’s an owner to do? Here are 5 powerful tips to get you back on track.
1. BE HONEST
First you need to be honest with yourself. You also need to take personal accountability for where you brand is now. It’s easy to point the finger and place blame.
If you cannot be honest with yourself first, there is no real reason for you to read on. Now, if you’re ready to take responsibility for the current state of your restaurant then let’s continue.
2. GET BACK TO BASICS
The famous UCLA coach, John Wooden was known for his focus on the fundamentals. When you find your restaurant going off track, the best thing to do is to start back at the beginning. Now is the time to go back and review your notes about your brand and what you originally stood for.
Now take a look your menu and see if you have strayed away from your original notes. If you have, now might be a good time to dial your menu back in alignment with your brand. This happens often when the restaurant owner is not the chef. Every chef wants to leave their mark on the menu. That can become an issue when you’ve gone through multiple chefs. Remember that the restaurant’s menu should support the brand, not the ego of the person running the kitchen.
3. FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR BRAND
There’s an interesting term in psychology called the Law of Familiarity, which basically says, if you’re around something enough you’ll tend to take it for granted. Just like any relationship, you have a relationship with your brand. When times are good, you love each other. When times are bad, not so much.
If your restaurant is struggling, it’s easy to take it for granted. It’s easy to avoid the hard stuff and focus only on the activities you still enjoy doing. It’s easy to sit in the office and say you’re busy with paperwork. It’s easy to sit there and have hope that the market will turn around and come back in your favor. Let’s get this straight right now: Hope is not a strategy.
You need to go back in time to the mindset and feelings you had when your restaurant was new. Think of the energy you had. Think of the passion you had. Think of how unstoppable you felt. Now tap into that and find a few reasons you still love your brand.
4. TAKE ACTION
There is an old Zen saying that “To take no action, is an action.” By now you might have noticed a few things that have caused your brand to go off track. The next thing to do is to make an action plan and make a commitment to do something with that plan. A real decision happens when you actually take action towards it. If you haven’t taken action, then you truly have not committed.
Talk is cheap. A lot of restaurant owners talk about improving this and that, but few do. Mostly, you can spot those that won’t take action by their use of the word “should.” I know, I should cost out my menu. I should start marketing on Facebook. I should repair the sink in the ladies’ bathroom. They basically just should all over themselves. Be one of the few that actually take action over those that just talk about it.
5. GET HELP
There’s no one saying you have to do this alone. The great thing about the Internet today is that you can have access to wide network of professionals with information to help you. On LinkedIn there are dozens of restaurant groups that you can join to ask questions and give feedback. There is a wealth of information on restaurants and business on the Internet with a simple Google search and the click of a mouse.
Here’s a good list start with:
Foodable TV Network – www.foodabletv.com
Toast Restaurant Management Blog – www.pos.toasttab.com/blog
Restaurant Business Magazine – www.restaurantbusinessonline.com
Modern Restaurant Management – www.modernrestaurantmanagement.com
If you want a little more personalized approach, then considering getting a consultant or a business coach. There is a wide variety of them on the market with varied experience and fee structures to match up with any budget.
There are many case studies of struggling restaurants that have been on the verge of closing their doors, but have come back from the brink thanks to the right action plan and repositioning of the brand. Many are even more profitable than they had originally been before a rebrand. If you asked any of them what was the turning point, they would tell you this: Follow these first five tips.
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