If you own a coffee shop or a small, independent restaurant, you undoubtedly already know that these types of businesses come with a very thin profit margin as well as have a very high failure rate. Unfortunately, there's no tried-and-true blueprint for success in this industry — what works in one community may fall completely flat in another. Some restaurants seem like they're doing everything right but fail nonetheless. In fact, as much as 30% of new restaurants end up going out of business during their first year.
Fortunately, even though there are no guaranteed formulas for making it in the restaurant industry, there are strategies that you can use to hedge your bets in favor of success. Among the most important ways to help your restaurant thrive is to generate a healthy amount of repeat business. Even restaurants located in popular tourist communities say that they depend on a loyal following of locals is the backbone of their business. The following are four ways that you can generate repeat business for your independent restaurant.
Take a Business Management Course
Customers have an uncanny way of knowing when a business is not being professionally managed, and in a restaurant, this can show in a thousand small ways. For instance, the service, the food, and the overall atmosphere usually suffer in establishments without professional management. As an added bonus, having Many of those who decide to open their own restaurant do so at least in part because they're amazing home cooks who've been told for years by their friends and family that they should open their own restaurant. Although culinary talent is definitely necessary for this industry, even the most gifted chef isn't going to last long in a competitive market if they're business management skills are lacking.
Provide Consistent Service
Most customers are willing to give a new restaurant a second or maybe even a third chance if customer service isn't quite up to par, but consistently bad service eventually causes them to look elsewhere. Make sure that staff is trained and knowledgeable, and treat them well to ensure they stick around. No restaurant can run smoothly with a revolving door of employees even if those employees are experienced and skilled. One of the biggest mistakes many new restaurant owners make is treating employees as if they are expendable. Although it's true that not everyone will be a good fit for your business, be polite and professional if it's necessary to let anyone go so that you don't develop a bad reputation as an employer among culinary workers in your community.
Provide Consistent Food
Although many restaurants experiment with menu items when they first start out, customers don't like it when menus completely change from one visit to the next. It's best to stick with core menu items that are always available and experiment with daily specials instead. This provides you with the opportunity to test out new recipes on your customer base and add items to the menu based on their response. This way, you'll develop repeat customers who have their favorite dishes and appreciate the fact that you serve them on a reliable basis.
Develop a Signature Dessert
One of the best ways to keep customers coming back is to tempt them with a sweet treat they can't resist, so be sure to develop a signature dessert — while it shouldn't be the only thing on your dessert menu, it should be the star of the show. The dessert should be relatively simple and quick to prepare as well as something with broad appeal, such as salted caramel pie. You could even consider building your dessert menu around a caramel theme. There are many desserts that can be made from milk caramel, such as chocolate caramel chocolate chip cookies, butterscotch caramel brownies, and apple caramel pie. Reach out to suppliers near you to buy milk caramel for your specialty treats.