5 Things You're Doing That Are Killing Your Restaurant

October 7, 2016 Andrea Victory


So you have a line out the door on Fridays and Saturdays, a menu with some customer favorites, a fun (if a little disorganized) staff, and you’re comfortable not doing any of that social media stuff. But be honest, are things really that great? Does every customer leave happy, or are you not really sure? Truth is, you might have an idea of how your restaurant is doing, but do you actually have a pulse on the heartbeat of your operation?


If you’re making any of the restaurant mistakes below, stop now, before you hurt your restaurant for good.


1. Improperly Managing your Waitlist and Reservations

You might think that a long line out the door or a consistently filled reservation book means you have more business than you can handle and that’s a good thing. But taking your abundance of customers for granted and not managing your waitlist or reservations correctly can cost you business.


First of all, you’re messing with the customer’s experience. If a walk-in at 7pm on Saturday evening doesn’t know that there won’t be a table available until at least 9pm, they’re not going to be very happy to find that out after they’ve been standing in line for twenty five minutes. Ditto that 8pm reso that shows up on time only to have to wait fifteen minutes for their table. In short, take your customer’s time for granted or mis-manage their expectations and they won’t bother standing in line again. And they’ll probably tell their friends about the poor experience too.


What to do about it: Have your host take names up and down the line while delivering a realistic wait time, take their phone numbers and send them to the bar, or better yet, get a modern reservation system like OpenTable which updates guests in real time about their wait.


2. Sticking with a Messy Menu Design

Is your menu too big, crowded, disorganized, or sloppy? You could be missing out on valuable dollars. Your menu is more than just a list of the food and drink that you offer: there are psychological behaviours at play. Customers can be persuaded to spend more based on placement, color, and price of items on your menu.


It’s known that the more choices people have, the harder it is to make one, and the less happy they are with their final decision. It’s a paradox: people want the freedom of choice – but not too many options. Slimming down your menu to the best dishes, designing with the customer in mind, and having a menu that you’re proud of, can have a positive impact on guest experience, kitchen staff, and bottom line.


What to do about it: Fix your menu design mistakes and redo your menu. Check out our article about smaller menus, and get inspiration from our Pinterest board filled with menu examples.


3. Not Establishing a Culture

The culture of your restaurant has less to do with your decor and menu and more to do the general vibe of the place and the feeling people get when they visit. Don’t assume it’s obvious, either. If you have a chill coffee shop where you want people to come and grab a coffee and a snack, then hang out with their laptops or friends, it’s important that your staff give off a relaxed and chill energy too. On the flip side, if your busy lunch spot hasn’t established a culture of working with “a sense of urgency”, you’ll see why staff aren’t keeping the pace.


It’s important that your staff know what your culture is, how they can get it across, and to keep it consistent. An across-the-board attitude from all employees can actually help keep customers because they know what to expect with each visit.


What to do about it: Consider a company training day or a hour-long meeting where you educate your staff on the type attitudes, objectives, and service styles that define your restaurant, and can provide guidance and insight to your company values and culture.


4. Leaving Money on the Table

If you don’t have a policy of upselling at your restaurant, you’re leaving money on the table. Your service staff and bartenders should feel comfortable suggesting add-ons, upgrades, specials, and combos, and they should be effective at it. Every customer is an opportunity to sell more to. And it’s not about being aggressive, it’s about optimizing the customer experience by suggesting more. Maybe that regular that always orders the same thing is interested in the daily specials, it’s just that no one recites them to him anymore. That group of ladies out on the town might be willing to go for the premium vodka instead of the rail. The family with kids is probably eager to eat, so the shareable app would be an easy sell.


The more days that pass without consistent upsells, the more money that could have been yours walks out the door.


What to do about it: Make upselling mandatory. Get a modern mobile POS that servers can take tableside that prompts upsells and increases your average customer spend.


5. Staying Offline

Think that social media is for kids, reviews are for complainers, and online ordering is a waste of time? If that’s your attitude, you’re missing out on some major opportunities. The world of social media and restaurant-focused delivery apps is thriving and it’s just waiting for you to get your share of the pie.


Instagram can drive traffic through food pics and location tagging, and Facebook can be a welcome spot for your loyal patrons to write good things about you. Yelp can provide potential customers with your hours, directions, and best things to order, and your website can provide an accurate and up-to-date menu for customers to peruse before arriving at your door. There’s also a host of delivery apps out there that will put you in front of new customers and even deliver your food for you!


What to do about it: Get online now. Ask your customers which social media sites they use and set up accounts. Then make sure to update them. Find out what delivery apps people are using in your locale and get on board.


You might not even be aware of the things you’re doing that are taking a slow and destructive toll on your business. The good news is, most of the changes are small and will have a big impact on your customers and your bank balance – the two most important things in the restaurant biz.


About the Author

Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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