While there will be problems with any business, in the restaurant industry a problem can be a disaster if you allow it to be. Rather than regarding a difficult situation as a problem, turn it around so it works to your advantage. Look for solutions to common restaurant business problems that can turn them into opportunities.
One common opportunity in the food service business is down time. After lunch and before dinner, or between breakfast and lunch you will probably have at least an hour when nobody comes through the door. Not only is this bad for your bottom line but potential diners passing by may think your restaurant is empty because it's a poor one. Therefore, you need to fill those tables as much as possible by enticing people to visit your restaurant between prime hours. You could offer a happy hour with free appetizers or a free buffet of chips and dips. A mid-morning brunch special will attract shoppers and passers-by and once the business community gets wind of it your restaurant will be the perfect place for an early meeting. You can also have a special menu for those slow hours, perhaps half portions with corresponding prices or items that are unavailable any other time of day.
The weather is another factor that can keep customers from dining out. Your job is to entice them out of their houses, into the heat or cold or rain and through your doors! This is a fun opportunity to be creative and get your staff involved. Choose a name for your promotion and perhaps make it a contest with a small incentive if the employee's idea is chosen. Many restaurants in Phoenix, Arizona have promotions during the summer, when temperatures can reach 120 degrees and no one really wants to leave their air-conditioned homes or offices. They offer a percentage off for every degree over a certain temperature, special menus with discount prices or limited time exotic drinks. You might offer free iced tea during the hottest days of summer, a complimentary scoop of ice cream after a meal or provide free valet parking or other services to minimize exposure to the heat. In the winter you can greet your guests with free hot chocolate or hot apple cider.
Another headache for restaurants is their seating arrangements. Taking advantage of every inch of floor space means that some tables are in less desirable spots, such as near the kitchen, the entrance or a bathroom. You can make these tables the most popular by offering free appetizers, desserts or other perks to people sitting there. Restaurants that turn this problem into such opportunities for their customers usually have those “undesirable” tables filled before any of the others!
Another problem that presents itself often is selling out of a popular menu item before the day is over. If customers find that a variety of menu items are not available they may simply walk out and not come back. Turn this into an opportunity by apologizing to the diner and offer them a voucher that entitles them to get the item for no charge next time they visit. Tell them about other items on the menu that they might enjoy instead. They may find a new favorite!
Before starting your restaurant business, give some thought to the kinds of problems that may arise in the day-to-day management of your establishment. Successful restaurant entrepreneurs find ways to turn these problems into profitable opportunities!