They say that your deeds form your habits, and your habits form your character, and the same can absolutely be said about becoming a successful restaurateur. In an industry that is saturated with ideas and flavors that will excite or fall flat on the palate, the secret sauce to success lies entirely in these habits that are recognized and practiced by successful restaurateurs.
1. It’s a Business First, a Restaurant Second
It’s easy to be swept up in the romantic and fantastical ideals of what it means to be a restaurateur, with dreams of good wine and laughs with regular customers who are gushing over the new winter menu. But the reality is that in order to be a successful restaurateur it means being an often ruthless and entrepreneurially-minded business person above all else. A successful restaurateur knows that it takes drive, passion, long hours, dedication, expertise, money, and time to create something that is meaningful and hopefully long-lasting. If these skills aren’t the strong suit of a restaurateur, then they make it a top priority to hire a trusted business partner who is able to be that person for their business.
2. Your Employees are Your Biggest Investment
It should go without saying that in order to run any successful business, you need to invest heavily in the people that keep a business alive and well. In an industry where changes in employment are constant, monetary compensation and good food are not enough to keep an employee happy enough to stay in a job. Successful restaurateurs know that in order to retain their employees, they need to be devoted to who they are as people as well as their personal and professional growth. Incentive programs, weekly or monthly meetings, staff events and creating an open-door policy are fundamental in order to keep your staff happy and healthy.
3. It’s Not About Reinventing the Wheel
It’s about taking the wheel and pimping it out.
When it comes to the menu, the key is to do one thing really, really well. We live in a time where Korean-Mexican fusion is a regular thing, but what a customer values in their dining experience is that the flavors are delicious and the service is consistent. Restaurateurs have to think about why a customer would choose their burgers and fries over someone else’s, for example. The answer lies in that unique but consistent quality that they’ll have at your restaurant, and nowhere else. This ranges from the taste of the food, to the décor of the establishment, to the service that they provide, and a successful restaurateur pays attention to all of these details.
4. Know your Neighborhood
The ultimate goal is to provide an experience unlike anything else, but this should still be done while being mindful of your surroundings. A successful restaurateur won’t open the umpteenth taco joint within a 5-mile radius unless it has a creative spin that has never been seen before. The reality is that every other restaurant, coffee shop, pizza joint, or yogurt bar is competition and being mindful of what you’re bringing to the neighborhood is a contributing element to the success of a restaurant.
5. Be Accountable
A restaurateur knows that in order to achieve success, they need to create measurable, specific and realistic goals in the form of a business plan. Creating this will keep them accountable for all decisions that they make as a restaurant owner. The rate of failure in the restaurant industry is high, and often circumstances such as fluctuations in the financial climate or changes in food trends can affect the success of a business. A detailed and thoughtful plan will make achieving the goals that they have set out for themselves and their team easier to attain and more importantly, sustain.
6. Be a Resource for Your Employees
A sure sign of a successful restaurateur is having exceptional stress-management skills. Restaurant ownership is a high-stress, inconsistent rollercoaster of an industry where everything can change at any given moment. As a leader, employees want to know that they can rely on you to be a constant and confident go-to resource, and successful restaurateurs develop this skill because they know it’ll set the tone for their staff, and eventually for their customer experience. Additionally, a successful restaurateur knows to serve their employees in the same positive way that they expect their employees to serve their customers. By providing your staff with an exceptional employment experience through training, industry education, flexible hours, prompt scheduling and a healthy work-life balance, you are ensuring that exceptional experience is present in every aspect of your business.
7. Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
Successful restaurateurs recognize that every aspect of their restaurant is crucial to its success. They get to know each role as if it were their own job; they know the menu, they know everyone from the dishwasher to the busboys, they’re familiar with the chef’s kitchen, they’re involved in payroll, they know the cleaning schedule, they know the food suppliers, and they take time to meet their customers. They look at their restaurant like a well-oiled machine, where without even one piece, the rest would cease to work.
8. Be a Perpetual Student and Align Yourself with Mentors
The most important thing a successful restaurateur can do is to ask questions, seek help, research, study and always be open to feedback. A successful restaurateur is not afraid to hear criticism from a restaurant mentor, because this is how they grow and make things better the next time around. They also make research a priority, learning about industry trends and seasonal food options. They have a curiosity for what’s new not only as a restaurant, but as a business. They reach out to other restaurant industry influencers to collaborate on ideas, share successes and failures, and ultimately learn from them. Successful restaurateurs are always curious to learn about how new technology and apps can improve their customer experience, increase efficiency, and make their staff’s jobs easier and more enjoyable. They aren’t afraid of the new, and embrace innovations with open arms.
Danai is a former Social Media Manager at Touchbistro who is passionate about scrolling through Instagram in search of new restaurants to eat at. While she has no formal dance training whatsoever, she hopes to be part of a professional hip hop troupe someday.