Resounding success in the restaurant industry is truly hard to come by, but it’s even harder to sustain. Turning a trend in local dining into lasting success is one of the hardest tricks to pull off in this business. Many restaurants have a few good months, and some of those can turn those good months into a good year or two. But it takes real talent and energy, both of which are the result of passion for hospitality, in order to succeed over the long haul.
Part of the reason that this can be a brutal business is that success can be so fleeting. A restaurant can figure out how to do one thing well – put together a solid Happy Hour, for example – and let that turn the fortunes of the business around. But very few restaurants that enjoy lasting success are one trick ponies. The long-term winners delivery quality food, service, and hospitality on a nightly basis.
If your business is jumping from the red to the black, it’s imperative that you follow a few key words of wisdom before the tides turn against you. How you handle your success will determine whether or not it lasts.
Successful restaurant operators have the tendency over time to focus on the bottom line and lose focus on the principles that help it look attractive. Focusing too much on the bottom line leads to cutting corners, buying cheap products, and failing to hold employees and vendors to a high standard.
This is a natural phenomenon. Running a restaurant is extremely challenging and it is easy to get burnt out during the daily struggle to make money. It is natural to let standards that were previously critical start to slide, and restaurant owners everywhere let this happen. Nowhere is this more evident than in corporate environments, where an absent regional manager might mean that assistant managers get to take it easy for while.
Never compromising means holding tightly to the same principles and energy. More than anything this means:
• Holding employees to the same standards as always
• Making sure vendors are supplying the highest quality at the best prices
• Going over the top to delivery great customer service
• Having the same day-to-day energy for the business
Winners in this business do not compromise. They raise their own standards and hold those around them to a higher standard.
Put Money Back into the Business
The easiest way to reinvest in the business is to advertise, and the biggest reason operators do not follow this path is short-term greed. The business model has to account for success by making plans for reinvesting. Advertising, expanding the product line, and refinishing the interior of the building are three ways that operators can build on success and point the business forward.
Reach out to the Community
Simply attaching the brand to honorable causes – through donations of time or money – is a great way to give back to the community and build the business. Enjoying some success should allow the operator or a manager to get outside the four walls of the business, to build the customer base and get the word out about all the great things happening at the restaurant. Community outreach is a great way to build support and broaden the scope of the brand.
Expanding to another building can be a dicey proposition for many reasons. The blueprint for success might not work in a second venue, and unforeseeable pitfalls can arise. For these reasons, it’s often better to expand the product line first, through new services, like off-site catering, or new products, like an expanded menu. This represents a good way to test the waters while diversifying the revenue stream.
Success leads to rising expectations. Imagine this scenario: a young couple joins your restaurant for a special occasion and has a wonderful dining experience. The food, service, and atmosphere are excellent, and they promise to return. When they do, it is after raving about your restaurant to family members and friends, two of whom join them based on their lofty review. The expectations of the second couple are now through the roof, based on the lengthy praise of the first couple. Anything less than a stellar evening is going to seem substandard.
This is the fickle nature of the restaurant business, in which restaurants that do not handle success well will fail in this instance. I believe this is a primary reason that success is so fleeting in this business. If you’ve ever wondered why a restaurant that seemed to be succeeding shut down, it’s no doubt because its operators did not handle success well.