The doors are wide open and the sidewalk sign is out. Staff are in uniform poised above the POS, and the kitchen crew is hovering over the printer anticipating the first order. You’re waiting for your first customer and crossing your fingers that your grand opening will be a success.
But in order to capitalize on the buzz and traffic from your first day, you need to make sure you cover some very important basics so that all of your new customers become regular patrons.
Follow these tips to garner success from day one.
Do a soft open first
Practice makes perfect. A dress rehearsal opening with your family and friends to warm up your operations and staff is a good way to get into the swing of things. Once you have some constructive feedback to work with, then have your grand opening and show your place off to the locals.
Don’t ignore the customer experience
Today isn’t about you. Though it may feel like it is: it’s your concept, your recipes, and your money on the line after all. But don’t forget the most important aspect of running a successful restaurant – your customers. How they are treated, how their food tastes, and how they feel on their first visit is imperative. You want them to come back. Make sure that from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave, the experience has been thought through and is seamless.
Do schedule enough staff
While long lines on your first day might seem like a good thing, that’s not always the case. There’s a difference between eager patrons lined up to get a taste of your food or a fully sat restaurant, and a group of people staring down inefficiency and getting peeved because their lunch break is being hijacked. You’ll need more employees when you first open, and then you can streamline over time.
Don’t forget to train, train, train
Slow service on your first day shows that you’re not prepared, and that’s not a great impression to leave on brand new customers. Customers don’t want to be the guinea pigs for you to work out your processes on, so train your staff well and empower them to handle potential complications that could arise. Make sure they are comfortable with your POS, and have them do a number of different mock orders before opening, so they become used to everything from complex modifiers to taking different payment types. As well, be sure all staff has studied up on the menu, so they are confident answering questions about ingredients, dietary restrictions, and allergies on opening day.
Do get busy on social media
It’s free and it works, so don’t delay in getting the word out about what’s going on at your new digs. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are great ways to document the day and convert new customers into followers. Make sure your customers know what social channels you’re on and encourage them to tweet, post, and share their experience at your grand opening with their followers. You could even have an Instagram booth or custom hashtag for the event.
Don’t invite reviewers – until later
Wait until the dust settles, you’re confident in your service, and the food is consistent to invite in critics and reviewers. Granted, you can’t control individual Yelpers, but you should have your ducks in a row enough so that the feedback you’re getting is mostly positive. When you’re ready, send invites out to local media and bloggers so they can see you shine and spread the word.
Don’t focus on profits
Today isn’t the day to focus on how much money you’re making. As a restaurateur, it’s important to keep a close eye on your margins and always know where the bottom line is, but on opening day, this isn’t your first priority. Instead, you want to engage with customers, step in to help your staff when necessary, and remember – enjoy yourself!
The cornerstone of your restaurant is creating a customer base. Make sure that your first day open is all about creating an atmosphere and experience that will delight your patrons and have them coming back for more – with their friends in tow.
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About the Author
Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes 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.More Content by Andrea Victory