As someone who regularly consults with new restaurants, and has personally taken the step, as part of a team, to open a new venture in Putney, South London, www.WallaceandCo.com, my thoughts turned to that thorny question of what makes a restaurant successful. Whether you are just starting out or you already run your own restaurant, you will probably be well aware that the margin between success and failure is a very slim one. Sadly, most restaurants struggle to make any profit at all and many simply fail altogether. Unlike most businesses, a restaurant often involves a significant initial investment before it can even open its doors. You would have thought that this initial cost would be an obstacle to many people, yet, every day new restaurants are started by ambitious owners, with high hopes and dreams, only for it all to end in tears. Indeed, over the years, I have often seen the same site occupied by several different restaurants with them all ending up in liquidation. Yet this doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of key criteria that make your chances of success greater – or conversely, reduce the risk of failure. In the coming weeks I’m going to be giving you my personal top ten tips to success, however, before I do that, there are a number of home truths to bear in mind:-
· You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. As with any other business, I am assuming you do what you do as well as you can. Whatever tricks and devices you employ, if the final product is no good, you might as well call it a day straight away.
· Look at your offering critically. Would you go back yourself? Do you offer a really great experience? Be clear as to what you are selling. If it was just a matter of sustenance, people would head to their nearest fast food joint, (and they do). At least they get what they are expecting!
· Remember you are not the only one doing this. In most parts of the world, there are few places that don’t have serious competition. Even if you provide the most superb cuisine in the best possible setting, there are likely to be other establishments providing a similar experience. Keep in mind that you are competing for a limited number of customers and therefore, you have to find ways and means to get them to come back to you, again and again, rather than go somewhere else.
· Price is not the key, value is. Most people are not driven by price. They will pay a premium if what they receive in return is perceived as value. Make your guests feel that they have had good value for money and you will find that another obstacle in your race for success has been overcome.
· Don’t wear blinkers. Throughout my experience of advising restaurants, the one thing I find all the time is a resistance to change. People who blame everyone else for their failure rather than themselves. These same people are the ones that do the same thing, day after day, week after week, year after year and yet expect a different outcome! Success is not usually a matter of luck. Things don’t just change suddenly by chance. If your restaurant is struggling or not doing as well as you would like, something needs to be done and this will probably involve making some changes.