David B Townsend
Daunting Tasks of Creating and Marketing a Restaurant
Restaurants often fail. Why? Lousy location, not finding a niche in the community, under-financed; a dozen reasons. Food Service is a complicated business. Restaurant, Deli, Catering and Gourmet Markets used to be an extension of real family expertise and hard work. Basic good food, convenient parking, friendly service, and reasonable yet profitable pricing was 70 percent of the plan. Food-service today is no longer about a white table cloth in a comfortable room and a graciously prepared meal. People do not go out to eat because they are hungry. They dine-out for entertainment with family and friends, for a bit of adventure, often choosing from a shortlist of favorites with proven service, cuisine, and ambiance. Moreover, the perceived 'value' is still essential.
To create or update a business operation takes time. It requires an awareness of food and design trends, technology; sales tracking, costs, and marketing. How do Social Media play into your evolving lunch menu and daily specials? More importantly, the evolving landscape of how the distribution of local foods and farming techniques can affect aspects of seasonal menu evolution and operations. As one develops a restaurant concept, wasted time and unforeseen tasks consume the budget. Figuring out how to source local farms for consistent product on time can be challenging.
There are many factors in the new competitive world of food preparation and presentation. Some of these are organized into the weekly operation; some techniques or technologies did not exist a decade ago. The marketing cycle is no longer about placing 'print ads' and comping a few meals to regulars. Today, you need to promote daily specials, be involved in the community, and have a signature item which only 'you' do better than your competition. Trends in food-service are always in flux. It would help if you had time to resource new products, talented staff, and marketing.
Food-service has a couple of evolving operational models. If one is traditional table-side service, plate presentation, and excellence in service are critical factors. Even here, mobile ordering, social media marketing of daily specials, and delivery are all becoming an expectation or the norm. If you are not addressing 'take-out' or prepackaged food as a retail aspect of your business, you are already behind the curve. However, if one is offering convenience and ease of ordering utilizing a space becomes more about graphics, easy menus, and mobile apps or delivery. A variety of packaged meals and well-conceived packaging for quick meals at home is a requirement for any food-service concept, especially the small grocery or deli. Signature items become a tool to highlight a specialty.
Design elements for visual appeal and operational systems are interconnected and must be thought out in detail. If this approach involves handcrafted cocktails with homemade syrups or fresh processed juices, a designating area for making and storing of ingredients will be a necessity in the design. Market daily specials by having a social media strategy will be crucial. Having a permanent space with proper lighting to capture great photographs needs to be more than a corner of a desk in a tiny office. Every choice in design will affect other aspects of design and operational processing. Having a seasoned consultant, one that has encountered the incremental problems in opening and recreating a food-service operation will help refine and implement the concept while helping avoid mistakes.
I have assisted many owners in simplifying their ideas, bringing clarity to a concept, and direct them in team building a professional staff. Having decades in food service: from 5 star dining of the Mark-Hopkins Hotel to Pizza restaurants of North Beach, from a gourmet food market in Carmel to simple, fast food service at multiple C-store outlets, I have seen and managed a full spectrum of food service, and trained staff to excel at service in each of these diverse food service concepts. I coach new and existing restaurateurs grasp the full extent of their foodservice vision and help bring it to realization.
The current direction for casual and family-style restaurants is the need for a media presence on social media. Pictures and comments about daily specials, new menu items, even community involvement, are used as marketing tools to keep people talking about your operation. Photos become an asset in that excellent presentation of food are an expectation. The spectrum of food-to-good from convenient pick-up or delivery is also becoming commonplace. If you're not keeping up with this trend, you're moving away from increasing your sales. And highlighting your take-out specials is critical via the 'visual marketing' I offer as one of my tools.
My consulting process begins by listening to your vision and goals, offering an objective opinion based on experience. As a team, we fine-tune an idea and provide design ideas and support of the concept with proven operational systems and marketing techniques. This process involves food styling, exceptional photography, compelling copy-writing, and a setting specific goals to create, communicate, and present a 'Brand' to the community. I call it 'Visual Marketing.' I will assist in formulating the stylistic decisions as it pertains to service, visual communications, and the overall ambiance of the dining room. With extensive 'front-of-house' as well as back-end kitchen experience, I have opened and reconfigured numerous restaurant concepts.
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