Do You Have a Strategy to Be Better than the Rest?  If you own/operate a restaurant and have seen your sales go down either before or during COVID and want to see them increase going into 2021, there is no doubt that you are dying to make changes.  But the problem is you may not know how to make those changes.  Some absolutes you need to do are; learn to see things through a new set of eyes and ears, think outside of box, take a whole new approach to your business and how it operates, and finally, make a game plan to ensure you are set apart and differentiated from your local competition.

Question to Ask Yourself

What is my brand and am I staying true to it? Am I reaching the right target and do I know who my target is?  How can I narrow my focus and efforts to build my customer base? What am I doing now that needs to change and how can I change it? How can I streamline my operations to be more profitable but not sacrifice quality? What things can I do to differentiate myself from those other restaurants around me?

Narrowing Down Key Areas

Define yourself, your brand, your colors, your music, your menu strategy/flavor profiles, your service style, your uniforms, your labor model, etc.  Start with a clean sheet of paper and decide those factors first.  After you have identified with certainty who you are as a brand, you need to shift strategy and begin looking at what can be changed on the menu, in your service model, as well as your plateware, flatware, color palates in the dining room, etc.  While deciding on menu changes specifically, you must make the hard decisions as to what items need to go away and what items must stay.  In this decision making process, you would use your product mix to see what is and isn’t selling, use yelp and other platforms to see the feedback on certain dishes, and use your order guides/prep lists to see what items use “one-off” ingredients that can be streamlined and/or removed.

Last Step

The last step in the menu innovation process, once you have minimized your current menu, is to create new, exciting menu items that are craveable, memorable, instgrammable, and differentiate you from everyone else.  You need a menu that tells a story and in addition, everyone needs a signature item that they are known for; creating one of these is paramount to setting you apart.    Once your menu has been redefined, streamlined, cut down, and rebuilt again with fun new innovative items on new innovative plateware, it’s time to reintroduce yourself to the market!  And never forget that the food is the primary reason guests come in to see you, but the whole package of staff, service model, execution, cleanliness, and a well-defined narrow brand that makes them feel like they can never live without you, are the reason they all come back.

Don’t Forget

Think outside of the box, define who you want to be, and once you have decided, don’t waver, stay strong, fight the fight, beat out the other guy, and with a great menu and flawless execution, you WILL stand out, increase sales, and see 2021 as a new horizon as you leave 2020 in the rear view mirror.  Good luck!

CARES Program blog contributed by:

John Franke began Franke Culinary Consulting, LLC focusing his work on new brand menu development and current brand menu and operational enhancement. With over 2 decades of experience, John brings extensive knowledge in menu development, team building, vendor relationships, and kitchen design, to all his clients.

Learn more about about John’s seminar: New Strategies to Beat Your Competition and how to access customized consulting through the Collin SBDC CARES Program.