It would be difficult to find an industry that has changed more than the restaurant business in the last ten years. Sure, the economy has grown and plummeted and IT has revolutionized the way people communicate, altering landscapes everywhere. But the restaurant business has seen an explosion in total guests dining out and a similar growth in the number of restaurants opening its doors. Combine that with the declining economy and operators have to be more resourceful than ever before.
This sector has seen changes few people could have predicted. For example,
∑ Social media has overtaken traditional marketing outlets.
∑ Public response websites empower guests with the ability to provide instant feedback.
∑ People demand faster service, shorter ticket times and fresh ingredients.
∑ The industry has bisected, giving diners more upscale, high-end options and pseudo-fast food outlets, but fewer middle-of-the-road, casual dining restaurants.
The operator that could have seen these changes coming has likely had a successful last ten years. The operator smart enough to foresee the next wave of change has a lot to look forward to.
But how do us non-visionaries know whatís to come? How can we leverage future trends by preparing our business for them now? One way to stay on top of volatility is to be prepared for change. Folding adaptability into your philosophy and concept is a great way to point your restaurant in the right direction. That means reading about the business, staying current with economic trends, and exploring new ways to deliver a great product. It often means having a quality, inventive and resourceful leader in the kitchen, who can help you reconfigure your product from time to time.
It also means looking back occasionally, and thinking about how recent changes can impact the next ten years.
Niche-centric restaurants are disappearing
Know any steakhouses that were built more than twenty years ago? They are male haunts; full of dark lighting, circular booths, mahogany and brass everywhere. The message then was that men could drive success and women could come along if they wanted.
Restaurants built in the last ten years are far more likely to cater to everyone. Seafood places serve chicken now; Japanese restaurants serve cheeseburgers for kids. Restaurants still do what they do best, but they work to make it appealing to more people.
The restaurants opening their doors in the next ten years will be far more likely to succeed if their area of concentration is in concept only, offering a well-rounded menu that appeals to the widest audience.
The Internet Has Taken Over
Zero restaurants opening today fail to have an internet presence. Guests make sure of it by posting uninvited reviews that are read by potential clientele. In some cases, these unwanted responses on peripheral elements are all that is out there about a restaurant besides a five-page website and some menus. In other cases, they place second in search engine ranking.
Future restaurants will have to marshal the internetís power, and that will more often mean hiring a part-time social media marketing service. Restaurants who avoid the internet over the next ten years will either be too established to care or left on the outside of the success bubble looking in.
More Guests Dine Out 3-4 Times Per Week
The restaurants of the next ten years will covet competition instead of dreading it. That will be because more diners will be going out more often, and nearby successful restaurants will increasingly get guests thinking about where else to go out to eat.
Twenty years ago, only the wealthy and the expense-accounted dined out multiple times in a week. But the trend has been for guests to think about dining out more and more as time has passed. This has continued in recent years, in spite of the countryís economic difficulties.
However, this also means that guests are smarter about eating out, more likely to recognize fresh ingredients, and can distinguish adequate service from good or great service. Combine this with the growing likelihood of online reviews, and fewer restaurants will be able to get by with a mediocre product than have at any time.