How to Grow a Restaurant Business
The first few years of running a restaurant business – or any business for that matter – require large amounts of resources and adaptability. In fact, it could be more of a struggle than anticipated to become profitable. This article focuses on supporting restaurant owners who are trying to combat minimal or slowing growth. Whether you’re still in the planning stages, just starting out, or struggling to bring in a stable revenue stream and establish yourself, here are a couple ways to grow a restaurant business.
Identify the reason for slowing growth
If you have already started your restaurant and are wondering why it isn’t performing as well as it should or used to, here are a few questions to help identify potential reasons for the decline:
• Are you offering the products or promotions your consumers want?
• Did a new restaurant open up nearby and is there more competition than there used to be?
• Do you have a competitive advantage? (What makes your restaurant different to other restaurants in the area?) Are you incorporating that into your marketing so potential customers know what it is?
• Are your existing customers happy with your menu and service? Would they recommend you to their friends?
• How is the customer service in your restaurant?
• Are your staff happy? How is the turnover?
• Are finances/business expenses poorly managed? Is there regular overstocking of inventory, extra staff on shift, or surprise quarterly invoices that were forgotten about?
• Does your location or your facilities need an upgrade? If you have toilets, are they clean? Is your cutlery, tables and floors clean?
• Do you simply need to ramp up your marketing?
Decide on how you want to grow
If you answer positively to those questions and feel like your restaurant is running well, then take a look at your service capabilities. Is there still room to bring in new customers or are you fully booked during peak hours every day?
If there’s still room to bring in customers but you’re having a hard time getting repeat customers or new ones, take a critical eye over your menu and product offerings. Are there new recipes you should add or complementary cuisines to try? Are similar restaurants offering something different that’s working well for them?
If you are fully booked every night and your space can’t hold any more people in a day, it might be time to expand either your original space or open a new restaurant.
What to do when renewing / expanding your restaurant
If the reason for slowed growth within your restaurant is because there’s room to enhance your services, there are a few things you can do to better cater to existing and new customers. One way is to grow your business so it’s on par with new competitors. Competition could come from a new restaurant that offers similar food but is presented differently, an old competitor who’s recently updated their equipment or another restaurant that is close to yours and stealing away foot traffic. Listen to your employees and customers and whether they’ve found a gap in the current menu or services that requires revamping, renovating or updating. Being willing to adapt to changing markets and demands will help you to attract those new customers.
Collecting feedback can help you understand what parts of your current restaurant business plan need attention. Your customers and staff can give you invaluable insights if you listen to them. Give them platforms to share both formally and informally with review pages online, short questionnaires left on tables, or face-to-face conversations. Having an online presence through social media, Zomato, TripAdvisor or Yelp pages will make it much easier to receive this form of feedback. You can leave business cards on your restaurant counter with links to these pages so your customers can find them easily.
Pay attention to comments from customers around aspects of your restaurant such as the menu, range of products (should you be offering a larger food range or more drink options?), service, cleanliness and décor. Helpful feedback from your staff can include comments around the POS system, computers, software, and kitchen equipment. They might also be able to share informal feedback from customers that they hear while out on the floor.
Take note of suggestions you hear, especially recurring themes, and look into implementing any changes needed to improve satisfaction.
Negotiate with Your Suppliers
Once you try out a few suppliers and decide which one(s) provides the best quality and service, consider buying consistently through them. Being a regular customer will make it possible for you to try re-negotiating for better bulk deals. The massive bulk orders and consistency in purchases makes you a valuable client, which could mean your suppliers are willing to give you a discount so you stay loyal. Lowering your backend cost without changing your prices will also allow you to have a larger profit margin.
Consider not having your expansion store adjacent
If you decide to physically expand your store, you’ll need to look around to decide which direction to go for additional space. There is a chance that none of your immediate next-door neighbours will be interesting in giving up their lease or able to relocate. If that happens, don’t panic. You don’t have to keep your restaurant confined to one continuous space. It could work out to have a second space that’s in a very close walking proximity as an extension of your restaurant. We’re not talking about opening a second store, but having your new space be a very short walking distance away from your original building. As long as it isn’t an inconvenience to your customers, it could work out just fine to have your expansion nearby.
Plan your renovation period for off-season
Whether you knock down a wall to grow your restaurant or take over a new space, there’s a good chance you’ll need to do some renovating. Even if the building you’re taking over was a restaurant, there’s probably still a need to rearrange or revamp the place to suit your needs.
When scheduling your renovation, pick a slow time of year so you aren’t missing out on peak busy seasons. This could be during holidays or non-touristy months. If your kitchen can stay open, consider offering take-away food or cutting down your menu to only serve the most popular food and drink choices. This will help simplify the delivery without compromising your best (and most profitable) dishes.
Choosing a New Location
If your restaurant has become wildly successful and you’re bursting at the seams trying to meet demand, it could be time to open a second location. To get to this stage, you’re obviously doing a lot of things right. Take all those lessons learned into the next location and remember to be just as careful about picking the space as you were the first time. A few aspects to consider are:
• Analyse your current restaurant clientele and look for areas with a similar market that will suit your second restaurant location.
• Decide if this store is going to sell the same, supplementary, or a smaller/wider range of food and drinks compared to your original restaurant.
• On a similar line, are you going to use this location as additional inventory management for popular food and drinks?
• Make sure you’ll have sufficient interior space for your inventory storage, kitchen and dining area.
• Look around to get an idea of the competition, likelihood of organic foot traffic (can people stumble upon your restaurant or are you on a side street that’s a bit away from the main road?), crime rates, rental prices, and utilities (e.g. bathrooms).
Build Your Brand Online
Having an online presence is just as important as having your physical store because most people turn to the internet before buying something new. People look for reviews, check out menus and share the location with friends often before stepping foot into a new restaurant. To ensure your potential new customers are satisfied with what they find and intrigued enough to come visit, ensure your site has all these components:
o Food and drink menus
o Current promotions
o Contact information
o About the team / business history (tell the story about how the restaurant started and why it’s unique)
o Links to your social media accounts
Google My Business
o Website URL
o NAP: Business Name, Address, Phone
o Opening hours
o Description of your business and the logo
o Service delivery area
o Reviews and photos
Social Media Accounts
Pick your social media accounts based on what’s popular with your customers. If your customers are on Facebook, then grow your following there. If you find that Instagram is more successful (because of the imagery and ability to show off your food and drinks), then focus more on this platform. You can have more than one platform, but make sure you aren’t biting off more than you can chew. Posting regularly (at least once a week if not every day) is key to getting your images and message in front of the most amount of people as possible. Promoting posts and investing in ads can also widen your reach.
Another way to grow your online following is through email marketing. Regularly sharing promotions, updates and loyalty programs will help you to stay connected with your customers until they come again. You can grow your email list by putting a subscribe option on your website, linking to it on your social media accounts, offering electronic receipts, and setting up loyalty programs.
Restaurant Business Loans with OnDeck
It can take a lot of resources to grow a business and they are only a handful of the expenses that come with owning a restaurant outside of basic inventory stock. A restaurant business loan can help you create the ultimate experience for your customers by giving you access to the necessary cash flow and resources you need to do so. In order to quality for additional funding, consider the following:
Understand your credit profile
When looking at a loan application, banks and lenders will reference the applicant’s credit profile to see if it hits their qualifications. A credit profile looks at your credit score and report, which comes from your credit history. It helps them determine things like how good you are at paying bills on time or how reliable your income is. Credit scores can also give you a sense of your business’ financial position. Figure out your restaurant business credit score now.
If you’re wondering whether you’re eligible for a small business loan or not, here are key requirements to get a loan with OnDeck:
• Minimum $100,000 gross annual turnover
• Minimum 1 year in business
• Minimum 3 monthly deposits
• No bankruptcy (prior or recent)
• Minimum 500 business credit score
Your purpose for a loan?
There are a variety of different kinds of loans and even more reasons why you might want one as part of your restaurant financial plan. A loan might be the right option if you’re looking to:
• Purchase equipment and inventory
• Hire additional staff (permanently or seasonally during busy periods)
• Start or increase your marketing ideas and initiatives
• Expand your store to a new location or online
• Establish a second restaurant
• Cushion cash flow in preparation for a slower season
OnDeck offers flexible business loans that solve a need for extra restaurant business funding. Whether it’s the cost of materials, covering a cash flow shortfall or getting some new equipment for a project, OnDeck can help you.
With an easy online application process, loans of between $10k and $250k, and terms of 6 to 24 months, we make it simple for businesses to get the extra funding they need.
Apply online in minutes at www.ondeck.com.au or call our helpful finance team on 1800 676 652 today.
Prepared by OnDeck Capital Australia Pty Ltd ABN 28 603 753 215 (“OnDeck”) for general information purposes only. Content may belong or have originated from third parties and OnDeck takes no responsibility for the accuracy, validity, reliability or completeness of any information. Information current as at February 2020. You should not rely upon the material or information as a basis for making any business, financial or any other decisions. Loans issued in Australia are subject to the terms of a loan agreement issued by OnDeck. Loans are subject to lender approval. OnDeck® is a Registered Trademark. All rights reserved.