Taking it on the Chin
Indies Losing Ground
For the twelve months that ended on March 31st, 2011, restaurant receipts were up 2% (USA numbers). That’s the good news, the not so good: restaurant closures were also way up. Of the 9450 restaurants that closed, 8650 were independents. The chains are kicking butt. If this were a football score it would be like 72-3.
How come, you ask? Because people are choosing to eat at places other than yours. Not your customers, I’m sure, but the hordes that go to the chains with regularity and have never been to your place.
I talk to a lot of restaurant people who feel like they are in jail. They are up to their eyeballs in debt, working their tails off, and losing more by the day. “What can I do?” they would ask.
I’m not claiming to have the answers- there are no easy answers or silver bullets. Each place has its own recipe for success or failure. The two primary reasons for people not going back to a restaurant: -neither has to do with food. Food wise, chain restaurants have proven long ago that mediocre consistency is enough to keep customers coming.
The restrooms were not clean.
Keep your restrooms clean, very clean, all of the time. I can bring my wife out for a wonderful meal, the ambiance and setting can be perfect, the service can be exemplary, but if the women’s wash room is dirty, then we ain’t going back. Plain and simple, all i’s dotted, all t’s crossed but inevitably she’ll note “if the wash room is that dirty, what does the kitchen look like?”
Ditto for windows and other “shiny” stuff. Keep the shiny stuff shiny. How many chain restaurants clean their windows twice a day? – Almost all of them. How many independents clean their windows twice a week? – Not many of them. If you are out with a spouse or a friend and have a choice of two places to eat, one with clean exterior, the other with a not so clean exterior, which one do you choose?
Inhospitable wait staff.
Empower your wait staff to fulfill customers’ wants and needs. Much more than the cook’s prowess, the wait staff is the key to getting customers back into a restaurant, …or sending them elsewhere.
Before you go screaming at the help in the front of the house, look in the mirror. If you feel like you are in jail, you just might be sending that message to your help: they might also feel jailed with you being the jail keeper.
Then people go to your restaurant you and your staff are the host: they are the guest. It’s supposed to be a pleasant experience. For that experience, the guest will give you money. You know this stuff: that’s why I’m telling you, because sometimes you are focused on the other stuff. Now get back into the kitchen and cook some frigg’n peas.
You can observe a lot by watching. —Yogi Berra