Business owners understand it best: sometimes, things just don’t go according to plan. There could be any number of reasons that a restaurant has started to fail, but now you’ve stepped up to the plate in an effort to save the establishment and keep the staff employed.
Whether you are in the business of purchasing a business to keep under your umbrella or prefer to ‘flip’ failing ventures and sell them at a profit, you have decided to step in and try to change the path a restaurant is currently on to improve its chances of surviving. Let’s take a look at the process of finding a failing restaurant, analyzing its weaknesses, and working to rebuild its reputation in the community.
Step One: Finding Your Project
In many cases, if a restaurant owner realizes a restaurant is not thriving under their care, they may choose to sell it. In this instance, finding your project is as simple as browsing restaurants for sale in Edmonton. Other times, owners want to learn how to do better and are looking to hire someone to help turn the business around and teach them a new approach. This can be easier or more difficult, depending on how you look at it— and how well you get along with the owner. You can accept their hiring job description, or you can negotiate something else more in your favor. It depends on the current state of the restaurant.
The third option is that a more hands-off management company notices that current management isn’t holding its weight and chooses to replace them. You have more freedom, but you are still operating under a corporate umbrella and will be unlikely to negotiate a different job description. However, you also have their support in your efforts to save their business, so you have more resources available.
Step Two: Finding the Problem
Once you have been established at the restaurant, it’s time to figure out what the initial problem is. Interview current staff and ask how they feel about the way things are run and how they’ve been treated. Talk to customers, whether walking the floor or incentivizing surveys. You can even use social media pages or a pre-existing website to invite feedback. If you purchased the business, talk to the previous owner and go over their policies and procedures. Check financials, check the menu, and analyze everything. Not every restaurant will fail for the same reasons, but here are a few common factors:
- Bad Location
- Lack of experience in staff or management
- Poor hiring practices
- Bad management
- Poor food quality
- Subpar customer service
- Lack of starting capital
- Lack of vision
- Poor marketing
- Bad menu planning
- Improper pricing strategies
- Unsafe kitchen or dining environments
Once you’ve determined the issue, it’s time to make some changes.
Step Three: Revitalizing the Restaurant
The changes you need to make will vary based on the issues of this particular restaurant, but you can rest assured that changes are needed. Ideally, the staff isn’t the issue, and you can work alongside them to change policies and procedures. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case: you may need to replace one, a few, or all workers. Be open and transparent with remaining staff in an effort to curb resentment for lost coworkers and excess change. Take things a step at a time, and ease retained staff into the changes.
The first things you need to address are vision and management. These are the foundations for any business and will help guide the rest of your decisions. Then start working your way down by priority. Management is your team, there to help you fix the rest. Next, it’s time to look at the staff and their work environment. Address any safety issues and then work on employee morale. Examine pay rate and benefits, and look over turnover. You may not be able to give raises right away but communicate with your staff that the goal is to raise their pay once the restaurant sees improved profits. Then, stick to your word. If pay isn’t a concern, then start looking at policies, procedures, and customer service.
Some other changes that can help turn around failing restaurants include:
- Ensuring the building is more than adequately accessible to patrons with disabilities
- Changing operating hours
- Offering carryout and delivery
- Offering online ordering and reservations
- Offering an alternative, allergy-friendly menu
This will include analyzing your menu selection and prices. You may need to make changes and pull in new menus. You may also need to invest in upgrading kitchen tools or building amenities. However many changes you make, it won’t be enough if your potential customers don’t know what’s going on. This brings us to Step Four.
Step Four: Pull In the Community
You could turn the worst restaurant experience in Edmonton into the best five-star dining experience, but it won’t mean anything if you can’t win back customers. Word of mouth can help, but you need advertising.
This can range from being open and transparent about changes in management and policy on social media changes, taking out a press release in local papers and magazines detailing the new vision, and even more gimmicky tactics like custom t-shirts for staff and putting out banners advertising new management. Coupons and specials go a long way in drawing customers in to give your restaurant another chance. Give your employees flyers with coupons that they can hand out, and consider running an employee contest to see who can bring in the most customers.
Whatever marketing tactic you follow, stay involved with your staff and with returning customers. You may need to make a few tweaks here and there as time passes, and more profit means you can invest more back into the restaurant. Before you know it, you’ll have a thriving success story and the choice to continue operating the restaurant or to move on to new ventures.