Carving Out Your Niche

If you’re a restaurant operator, or planning on becoming one, carving out a niche in your  community must be the focal point of your efforts. Carving out a niche means providing something that no one else provides. Your niche is what guests think of when they think of your restaurant. It could be a great place for pizza and to watch a game, or a great place to go for birthday or anniversary celebrations. It is what your restaurant is known for in your community.

However, carving out a niche also requires doing something better than anyone else. It could be the sports bar that has a TV in every booth, or the Mexican restaurant that has five-minute ticket times before entrees are served. Your restaurant doesn’t merely have to provide something that no one else can. It has to do it better.

Many operators work to create their niche by spending more capital. For example, a restaurant could have the most outdoor seating, or serve only microbrew wheat beers from Belgium. However, the most effective way to carve out a niche is doing what you do extremely well, and doing the heck out of it. If you love to make pizzas, make the best pizzas money can buy. If you love to sell wine, create the widest, most diverse wine list in your community.

What You Do Best

There is a reason that you have gotten, or are getting into this business. There is something that you are passionate about. This industry is too diverse for most restaurants to cover all the bases, or excel at every facet. Choosing one or two things to excel at based on personal interests or passion is the best way to carve out your niche.

That said, it helps to be aware of the market dynamics of the surrounding area. It doesn’t help anyone to set up the fifth pizza joint in a tiny bedroom community that can barely support four. There is a time and a place for every niche, and being aware of market forces is a key component of success in this business. However, if there is room for what you do best, you have your answer.

It just happens that certain niches are less cost-effective than others. For example, becoming determined to excel at the little things is a great niche to pursue. Here are a few examples of paying attention to details which, when taken together, are a great identity for a restaurant.

- Training staff members to always address guests by name.
- Placing personalized menus on tables for guests celebrating a special occasion.
- Piping butter out of pastry bags for bread-and-butter service.
- Having an on-staff sommelier to help guests pair wine with entrées.
- Using crumbers to clean tables between courses.

The Details

Paying attention to details and getting them right every time requires excellent hiring and training practice and a continuous extra effort. However, it is the most cost-effective way to attract guests. It is important for operators to remember that there are few places guests can go to receive exceptional service from the moment they walk in the door. Few other industries provide excellent service. Making flawless service and attention to detail the hallmark of your restaurant can fill a vacuum left by most other restaurants in most parts of the country.

However, it can also fill a void left by other service-related industries, who fail to develop and train the staff necessary to apply it. While many restaurants spend a great deal of capital on creating a niche within an area, an easier way is often to concentrate on getting the details right every time.

Ultimately, someone has to think about your restaurant first when they crave excellent food and service. The demographic group could depend on age, gender, income, or any number of factors. But, to get it right, it should be the result of forethought and effort, leading a niche that is all yours.