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By Katherine Pendrill
The early stages of launching a restaurant come with a steep learning curve. First-time restaurateurs often rely on experienced colleagues, seek business partners and investors, and spend hours reading how-to articles to learn the basics of entrepreneurship.
And while there is a lot that you can accomplish on your own as a restaurateur, success is difficult without restaurant consulting – about one in four restaurants close within their first year of operation.
For a lot of restaurant owners, making past the first year is where they finally get to celebrate – and start planning how to take their business to the next level! That’s where restaurant consulting firms come in. They can help you elevate your business in a way that you’d never be able to achieve on your own.
In this guide to restaurant consulting firms, you’ll learn:
Get ready to take your restaurant to the next level!
In general, restaurant consulting firms are external organizations that companies hire to observe their operations and provide feedback that will improve the business.
However, restaurant consulting firms specialize in helping restaurants grow. They offer a variety of consulting services like:
Oftentimes, making these changes in-house is more economical than paying the restaurant consulting firm to carry out their recommendations.
If you want to outsource and save money, you can look for agencies that specialize in the key focus areas outlined in the consulting plan. For example, if the consultancy discovers that you need a rebrand, you can hire a marketing or PR firm to do that.
These engagements typically begin when restaurateurs realize they have obstacles to overcome that they can’t tackle on their own or when they want to implement major changes to the business.
Here are some cases in which you might consider hiring a consultant for your restaurant:
While we started with a focus on restaurants looking to expand, it’s totally valid to seek professional assistance before you open your restaurant.
If you have enough cash, you may want to hire industry experts from the outset to set your business up for success – rather than changes when you’re already established. Working with experienced restaurant consultants can help your restaurant get well past that first-year hurdle.
Growing your business by adding more locations is a major decision that requires a lot of money. A consulting firm can research where your concept would work best so that you can optimize new locations.
Perhaps your restaurant is doing well on the East Coast and you want to expand to the West. Consultants could test audiences and find that Midwest customers would be more receptive to the concept than West Coasters. Think of how much money you could save by learning this before setting up shop!
Whether you’re rebranding your restaurant or taking over from previous management and want to give the company a facelift, it can be challenging to change concepts. In fact, we think it might be even more challenging to pivot an existing restaurant than it is to open a brand new one. A restaurant consultant can test your current concept against new concept ideas to help you make a decision that will set you up for the most success.
Hiring a restaurant consulting firm is a smart decision when you want to expand your offerings beyond foodservice and begin offering products or services.
Let’s say that your paleo restaurant is a big hit in Los Angeles and you want to expand the business by offering meal delivery kits and personal chef services in southern California. Consultants can look at the competition for you, explore viability, and provide a strategy that will help your business grow carefully.
Consulting firms can do a variety of projects to help your restaurant optimize efficiency and profits. Perhaps your profit margins aren’t as high as those of other restaurants in your area. You can hire a firm to audit your operations to see where you’re losing money. They can advise you on where to cut costs or what you should charge more for!
The restaurant industry has a big problem with retaining staff. A consultancy can help you figure out why the talent you hire isn’t staying for the long haul and even help you hire the right talent. Many restaurant consulting firms even offer hiring and training services.
Now that you understand why restaurant consulting firms exist and how they can help your business, you probably want to get some names so that you can reach out to firms and get started with tackling your business’ challenges!
Here’s a list of the 10 best consulting firms for restaurants in all corners of the U.S.
Coyle Hospitality is known in the industry for providing restaurants, hotels, and retail businesses with mystery dining and shopping services. Mystery diners are selected to “spy” on your staff and report on how they’re doing. They pay attention to things like how often the water is refilled or when the satisfaction check is conducted. Restaurants receive highly detailed reports about the customer experience.
Coyle’s other services include customer experience consulting, branding strategies, and employee engagement research.
National consulting group Synergy Restaurant Consultants promise to help their clients “reduce expenses, increase efficiencies, and grow.” Their experience spans 250 national chains, 1,000+ restaurants, and more than 30 years in the industry.
Synergy’s offers services like concept development, beverage innovation, menu development, financial advisory, and marketing strategy, among others.
Blackwood Hospitality is a bicoastal restaurant consulting firm that works with clients in New York City and Los Angeles. Blackwood specializes in restaurant launches and helping restaurants that are struggling financially.
They also serve their clients through food and beverage strategies, menu development, real estate brokerage, concept development, restaurant design and construction, operational procedures, marketing, and staff training.
Hospitality expert Clark Wolf serves clients in New York City and Sonoma County, but has also worked with businesses in Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, Tucson, Denver, and Los Angeles. Wolf works with a range of restaurants, from small businesses to large restaurant developers.
Some of Wolf’s consulting services include talent development, launch support, concept development, and business planning.
Chicago-based Playground Hospitality helps restaurants stand out. They specialize in working with large restaurant groups and is led by third-generation restaurateur Doug Roth.
His team offers services that include guest experience optimization, business strategy, and concept development, among others.
Aaron Allen & Associates has offices in Chicago and Orlando. Most of their clientele are chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks, Red Robin, and KFC.
Their consulting services include analytics, expansion, menu strategy, marketing, mergers and acquisitions, to name a few.
New School Consulting is a boutique restaurant consulting firm based in Los Angeles. Their team is led by alumni from Jose Andres’ Think Food Group and Cornell’s Hospitality School.
New School Consulting offers its clients a menu of services like mystery dining, concept development, staff recruiting and training, website development, marketing strategy, and location sourcing.
Last Word Hospitality’s mission is to establish “cohesive and timeless hospitality brands.” They excel at flipping struggling concepts and launching new concepts.
Some of their other offerings include restaurant design, concept development, hospitality training, business plan development, and menu design.
TRG prides itself on serving a wide range of clients – from existing restaurants and new restaurants to independent operators and investors. They also run the gamut of concepts, from quick service restaurants to fine dining full service restaurants.
The Restaurant Group Consulting’s services include concept development, launch strategy, management, business strategy, and design, among others.
Hospitality consultant Harlan Scott has 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry and has opened eight restaurant concepts. His passion is helping his clients make their dreams “profitable and scalable.”
Scott’s consulting services include culture building, tech consulting, vendor relationships, staff training, marketing, concept development, and more.
Restaurants are first and foremost businesses, and businesses can only go so far with just the ideas and expertise of their founders. In certain cases, like when expansion is in order or if the business is failing, it makes sense to seek outside help. Restaurant consulting firms can provide much-needed outside expertise and strategy to take your restaurant to the next level.
Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.
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