Ever purchase a piece of furniture from Ikea? Low-cost, trendy, but it’s the assemble yourself part that gets us every time. The blood, the sweat, the tears, the random screw you can’t find a place for…we’ve all been there.
If you’ve ever thought about opening a new restaurant, it might feel a little like assembling Ikea furniture – daunting. New restaurants can be a big venture with long hours included, and many steps and confusing tasks to walk through. Design a new menu, choose a location, hire staff; It takes time, patience, will most likely cause aggravation, but the important part is to not settle for ‘close enough.’ Because, when you put all the pieces in place, the reward is great and you will be so satisfied when it is finally done.
Unlike the traumatizingly laborious Ikea instructions, we’ve created a noninclusive list of items you’ll want to make sure to check off for your restaurant’s opening.
You’ve got a great menu planned. Hospitable staff hired. Unique concept in place. Well, unfortunately, none of that matters if no one knows about your restaurant. Marketing is a very important part of your business plan.
Opening a restaurant requires a marketing plan that will help you connect to potential customers in the community. In your plan, you’ll want to include everything from opening day incentives, to your specials, to your social media plan.
Our previous blog How to Claim Your Business Profiles will guide you through how to do this the simplest way possible, but you’ll also want to make sure to set up notifications for any new reviews. The opening days of your restaurant are vital, and any customers you get will be ‘new’ customers so first impressions are everything – and that includes how they’re responded to online.
If potential customers see or hear about a new restaurant in the community, they’ll google it. It’s a fact. Be one step ahead by having a landing page live online at least 30 days before opening day. This landing page should include your social media feeds, a spot to collect job applications, information about opening day, and MOST importantly, a place to allow customers to sign up for your E-club. In addition to a landing page that represents your style, start posting on social media regularly. By regularly, we’re talking 3-4x/week. You’ll also want to start utilizing those emails you’ve been collecting, so start sending weekly emails. These posts and emails should include updates about the status of your opening, any news stories covering your opening, and even offers and incentives to get people in the door early on.
A new restaurant opening is always exciting news in a community. There’s nothing worse than a silent grand opening because that puts you at risk of deflating morale in the community and with your staff. One important tip to prevent this from happening is to create a press release to send to local media once you’ve chosen a date and time for your opening. Talk up your new restaurant – this is your chance to share about everything you’ve worked so hard for. Make this an event no one wants to miss.
In a competitive industry like the restaurant business, word of mouth isn’t always enough to sustain a busy restaurant. Unfortunately, many restaurants fail in months 18-24, so you’re definitely not going to want to rely on your “honeymoon” traffic when you first open to guarantee your longevity and success. Now is the time to make sure you have systems in place to collect guest information. This should include things like handout cards/contests, table tents, or posters. It takes multiple visits to create habits, so you’ll also want to consider handing out some kind of “Bounce Back” offer during your launch window. This can be a coupon valid after your opening ends, and even extends another couple weeks.
Typically, the “honeymoon” phase wears off after about 6 months, and unfortunately many restaurants don’t think about marketing until that point, then regret not having a customer list to reach out to.
We’ve already hinted at it, but that just goes to show how important it is. Having an interactive and intentional online engagement during the first six months of being open is the most important time. Unfortunately, this is also the most difficult time operationally speaking as you hire new staff, create new recipes, etc. The first 5000 guests that walk through your door will make or break your restaurant. Be sure that a single customer doesn’t leave the building without knowing how to give feedback on their experience. This is a great opportunity to utilize review cards, and an online survey platform. Take a peek at our Combating Online Negative Reviews blog to gain some insight on handling reviews you may not love.
Looking for more tips for your new restaurant business plan?