You own and manage – or perhaps just manage – a restaurant. Do you ever ask yourself “how’s business?” Are you packed with happy customers every day, or would you like to be busier?
If you couldn’t take even one more patron, you might want to know what has led to your remarkable success.
If, on the other hand, you wish you had more customers, you should be asking yourself what you need to do to increase your patronage.
You can always ask your customers or your employees, but they may not always be honest and forthright. Perhaps the best way to find out why you are so successful or what might be keeping new customers away or old customers from returning is to review your own restaurant: a self-review.
Conduct a Self-Review
We got the idea of reviewing your own restaurant from a New York Times podcast interview with Pete Wells, a Restaurant Critic for The New York Times. In the podcast, he talked about what he looks for when he dines at a restaurant. Here are some tips for reviewing your own establishment.
- Begin by thinking of yourself as a customer, not the owner or manager. Have a meal. Have it served to you. Relax and enjoy your experience.
- Gourmetian.com suggests that you prepare a chronological narrative.
- Walk through the front door. What do you see? Is the restaurant clean and tidy? Is the ambiance appropriate for your style of restaurant?
- After being seated, peruse the menu. Is the menu clean and fresh? Are the selections what you would expect if you were a new customer?
- Order your meal from a server. How was the interaction? Was the server polite and patient? Did he or she answer any questions accurately and patiently?
- Was your order delivered in a timely manner? Was the presentation appropriate for your type of restaurant? How did it taste? Was the temperature correct? Remember to incorporate both pros and cons. Nothing is perfect. Be honest.
- Was the meal fairly priced? Remember, you are the customer today.
- It’s time for you to make a recommendation in your review. Thumbs up, down, or sideways? How can the “owner” or “manager” improve the customer experience?
- Be specific. Be fair. Be honest.
- Here are some questions to answer if you have not done so already:
- How was the quality of the food?
- How was the quality of the service?
- Was the interior design appropriate and friendly?
- How about the exterior design? Are you satisfied with the signage and the exterior lighting? Do you feel safe and welcome?
- How would you rate the value for money? Don’t think of your bottom line, think of your customer’s bottom line, especially if you want them to return.
- Lastly, find out how your real customers rate your restaurant on Yelp, Tripadvisor, or Google?
My restaurant is located in the commercial neighborhood of one of our suburbs. The shopping plaza in which we are located is within walking distance of a large hospital and a number of medical buildings. There is plenty of parking even though many of our customers walk from nearby. Our décor is appropriate for the type of food we serve and for our clientele. It is neat, well-organized and clean. We have been here for a while and it might be time to replace the tables and chairs and put a new coat of paint on the walls. Frankly, no one seems to notice or care.
Our menu is pretty much burgers, sandwiches, and salads. I ordered a cheeseburger, medium rare and it was prepared perfectly. We are well known for our sweet potato fries and so I ordered them and thought that the kitchen provided just the right amount of fries and a nice portion of our homemade cole slaw. The menu, while not extensive, seems to have something for everyone. I never get a complaint about menu prices. Maybe it is time to raise them!
Most of our customers don’t want to linger. They stop by during their lunch hour or on their way to an appointment, so our service is designed to be efficient. Most of our staff have been with us for a while. We are lucky not to have too much turnover because we try to take good care of our staff. Training is important to me as well as our manager. I noticed that the T-shirt and apron that my server was wearing could have been cleaner and I will remind the staff that we require shirts and aprons which we provide, to be clean and fresh daily.
While our lunch business is always steady, we would really like to see a pickup in our traffic at the dinner hour. I’ve considered changing the menu for dinner but so far haven’t done so. I’ve thought about adding wine and beer and I think that will help. I am going to hire a marketing consultant to assist with social media marketing.
Do You Need Help?
We write dozens of business plans and prepare financial forecasts for restaurant entrepreneurs each year. Some of our clients are just starting out while others are experienced restauranteurs who wish to expand or try their hand at a new concept. If you think it might be time for a business review, not a restaurant review, you might want to contact us.