How to Get a Competitive Advantage For Your New Restaurant
If you're thinking about opening a restaurant, you'd be joining a huge industry.
There are more than 1 million restaurants in the United States and the industry projects $863 billion in sales in 2019.
Who can blame you for wanting a small slice of such a big market?
And, although many people think that the restaurant industry is dominated by franchises, 70% of restaurants are single-unit operations, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Still, in the food business, you're competing against everyone, and it helps to have a competitive advantage.
Here are three things you can do from the start to get a competitive advantage for your new restaurant business:
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1. Develop a consistent, reliable multi-channel brand.
Even if you're running a brick-and-mortar restaurant, your brand needs to be in all the places your customers are.
Today's customers expect a dual online/offline experience for all companies. And, a failure to deliver that will reflect poorly on your business.
Here's how you can develop a consistent, multi-channel brand presence:
- Survey your customers to gain their invaluable insight. And be sure to reward them for their time with a discount or gift certificate toward a future meal.
- Maintain a consistent brand voice and user experience everywhere your customers are. Customers should experience your brand consistently whether they're on social media, a mobile delivery app, your website or in your restaurant.
- Make it easy to communicate with your business through various channels. Provide prompt customer support via phone, email, and live chat (if you offer it on your website) - as well as in the restaurant - whenever possible.
- Create strong social media relationships with customers. Treat your social media profiles as extensions of your team. Social networks let you scale your reach by empowering your customers and prospective customers to recommend your restaurant to their friends and followers. And, as you know, social reviews on sites like Yelp can be tremendously powerful or very harmful to a restaurant business. Plus, customers who engage with restaurants on social networks generally spend 20% to 40% more in those restaurants.
Building a brand with consistent touch points across multiple channels will help customers get to know and trust your restaurant faster - and that's a good thing.
2. Curate a Better Brand Through Self-Reflection
It's only through self-awareness and brutal honesty that you can really see how your brand is perceived.
And, creating a trustworthy, positive brand is especially important for new restaurants. So, keep a constant finger on your brand's pulse.
- Ask customers if there's anything you can do to serve them better. Often, it's the small things that can make a huge difference.
- Poll your employees - what are the most common complaints they receive from people who dine in your restaurant?
- Set up Google Alerts to notify you whenever your brand is mentioned online. That gives you a free and easy way to hear what people have to say when they don't think you're listening.
- Don't sugarcoat any failing. Every problem that you identify is an opportunity to improve your restaurant and brand in a meaningful way.
- Question even your most basic assumptions about your customers and prospects, what they want, and how you can best deliver it.
- Use the feedback you receive to make plans to do better - and follow through.
- If you're working with a delivery service, be sure they're providing a top customer experience. After all, your customers will blame you, not the delivery service, if their orders are messed up.
Don't wait for something to go awry with your restaurant and your brand and don't trust assumptions. Make brand monitoring a regular process.
3. Branding is action, too.
Don't assume that telling your customers what your brand is will actually make it so.
Branding occurs where the rubber meets the road - not in a memo. While your restaurant logo and other visual brand elements are important, real branding change must come from action.
- Get employee buy-in on your brand. If your employees don't buy it (and live it) - neither will your customers. Customers can quickly tell if employees love working for someone and this is especially apparent in restaurants. If your employees aren't happy to work in your restaurant, your customers won't leave with a smile on their faces.
- Create restaurant policies that will support the branding choices you've made. For example, consider the dress code, how you want your employees to talk/interact with customers, etc.
- Plan your customer's experience to reflect your brand identity.
- And, attack any changes in your brand at all levels of your business. Take a holistic view of your brand and make holistic actions to affect real change. Use colors in consistent ways in your restaurant, on your social profiles, in your advertising, and in your marketing materials. Otherwise, you'll confuse customers and prospects.
Be proactive about managing your brand, curating your menu, and developing a multi-channel approach that keeps your restaurant in front of your customers. Doing these things will also encourage people to give your restaurant great reviews on Yelp and similar sites, and that will surely help.
Ross Kimbarovsky is founder and CEO at crowdSPRING and Startup Foundry. Following a 13 year career as a successful trial attorney, Ross founded (in 2007) and leads crowdspring. Ross mentors entrepreneurs through TechStars and Founder Institute, is a member of the Executive Advisory Board for TechWeek, and was honored as one of Techweek100?s top technology leaders and business visionaries. Ross has also founded numerous other startups, including Startup Foundry, Quickly Legal, and Respect.