Our family-owned steakhouse has been around since 1968, but struggling with business since the economy crashed. What's the most effective way to utilize our advertising dollars?
– William Porter, General Manager, Angus Steak House and Restaurant, Pensacola, Fla.
I feel your pain but rest assured you are sitting right in the middle of the problem. First, you need to make some crucial steps to change your business without leaving the building...
Every day is Opening Day
For long-running businesses, fatigue settles in after about a year, yet often nothing changes until it’s too late. Guests, operators and Guest Experience practitioners may not even notice; it just becomes a routine event. Be sure to maintain the level of service, cleanliness and excitement that would be present on your first day. Every single customer, regardless of his or her frequency, must feel the excitement of opening day and discover something new in the experience. Move table seating plans, décor and server zones around at least 2 times per year.
Be sure to look at the menu as well. Menu fatigue, especially in complex full-serve like yours, is the number one cause of guest burn out. Keep loyal to your core products, but spice it up with a seasonal menu. That includes the menu graphics.
Also, have pre-shift crew interviews for every shift and keep them focused on specific guest experience tactics, simple and targeted against focused goals for the shift. No staff should be on shift until they are fully charged and ready for the most exciting night of their life.
The best teams wins and the best teams are made up of the best players. Recruit only the best most outgoing “people first” attitudes you can find, even if they have no experience. You can always train them to serve and expedite but you rarely can train “people pleasing” attitudes. Your business depends on these front line team members as your ambassodors and revenue stream. Treat them with respect over the top just as you would a customer, make it as easy as possible for them to love their job, and your restaurant. Be sure they have no hidden pressure points that will disrupt their ability to be at their best, get to know them as much as possible and reward their enthusiasm.
One other thing, if they cannot afford to dine there, make it possible with, “We treat you royally” free family nights for every crew member—even the lowest position on the team will your best ambassador.
The first impression happens every time a guest visits your restaurant regardless of how loyal and long they have visited. Be sure to keep your restaurant house in as good order as your opening day.
Many long running restaurant chains have not refreshed their environments since day one, which is fine provided they have continual highly detailed maintenance strategy. Are the parking lot lines freshly painted every year, do the parking lot lights all work at night, is the signage bright and freshly painted. Are the welcome zones bright, clean and freshly painted/stained surfaces? These are guest impression signals that do not go unnoticed and create important guest points of view that translate to the overall satisfaction level.
Keeping your restaurant like new will help you sustain through new competitive openings in the neighborhood and demonstrate your passion to detail.
Go and be amazing!