3 Restaurant slip-ups to avoid

by John Jones | Mar 16, 2023

We all know about health and safety hazards within the restaurant environment: equipment, food safety, manual handling and so on. Without the correct attention to detail in these areas, accidents will happen. 

But what about holes in a restaurant's business model or operational plan? In this short blog we look at three areas which can trip up the unwary and cost the business dearly.


The quality of food, service and the overall customer experience is massively impacted by the efficacy restaurant's staff-base. We're not talking about individual team members and their attitudes and skills (although that is certainly important, too) rather the cohesion of the team as a whole.

In order to deliver a first-rate product, everything needs to be in place and working harmoniously together. Normally, it does – most restaurants will draw up a staff rota some way in advance, allocating the right number and quality of team members across all of the businesses' functions necessary to operate effectively.

Things do occasionally go wrong, however, and boy – when they do – their impact can be massive. Picture the scene: your restaurant is hosting a formal dinner for members of a local business group and everything must run like clockwork if your reputation is to survive intact. The event has been meticulously planned and staff rostered to work, but on the night your kitchen porter/a waiter/front of house member calls in sick.

All of a sudden your operations are susceptible to risk, bottlenecks, slow-downs and errors as your well-oiled machine begins to grind to a halt and changes made to roles and responsibilities on the fly. Tensions rise, tempers flare, mistakes are made and resentment sets in among the staff, who inevitably blame the management – you – for the extra stress they're under. Need we go on?

The golden rule is to always have a contingency plan, for such an eventuality. When planning staff rosters have a “v2” handy, which would be able to cope in the event of a staff shortage. For example, multi-disciplined staff could be brought in, or a recruitment agency placed on standby, just in case. With the right skills mix planned-in from the get-go, a quick re-allocation of responsibilities on the night could save the day. Just make sure you have enough aprons/chefs' whites/shirts & ties to go around.

Costing & pricing

Your FT blogger is quite a fan of motoring-related analogies, so here's one for you: it is said that despite selling over 5 million of one of the best-loved and innovative cars ever – the Mini – its manufacturer lost money on every single one. Why? Because it wasn't costed or priced correctly.

And the thing is, the same goes for restaurants. An eatery can provide a stunning experience, with amazing food and first class service but if the numbers don't add up it will lose money, just like the Mini.

Dishes must be properly costed to macro and micro level, taking into account portion size and ingredients. Chefs must know what their dishes cost in order for restaurant owners to create realistic and robust pricing. And remember, chefs who hide behind their “artistic licence” and get twitchy when pressured on the subject of cost will, ultimately, not help your business no matter how good they are. Plus, of course, customers will happily lap up as much cheap but wonderful food for as long as it is offered.

Having costed your dishes, they must be priced appropriately and in alignment with what the market will stand. Sure, if you are fortunate enough to have a world-class restaurant with an A-list celebrity chef, you can pretty much charge what you like and the jet-set will pay it, but things get a little trickier for more “ordinary” restaurants and particularly those operating in crowded markets with lots of competition.

We wrote about pricing strategies back in April 2022 and a year on what we said still stands. Lead-in, incentive, extras and offer pricing all play a crucial part in ensuring a healthy margin but one thing is certain – without an iron grip on costs and pricing your restaurant is going to struggle. Don't be the Mini – make sure your chef knows the numbers so you can be confident you're making profit on every sale.

Booking processes

Here at Favouritetable HQ we have many members of the team who hail from the front line of the restaurant sector. Consequently our water-cooler moments are often peppered with memories of our fondest moments and inevitably our epic fails. When it comes to the latter, a common theme is the nightmare of sloppy booking procedures.

Sure, in the days before technology we worked with some wonderful yet manual systems which worked very well (after the shouts of “has anyone seen the book?”, whereupon someone would find it buried under some beer crates or in the sink) and ensured a pretty smooth flow of trouble-free bookings. More often than not, however, double-bookings and no-shows were a sort of fact-of-restaurant-life and one that, somehow, we muddled around and made work.

There's a serious side to this, though, because a high error rate has a very negative impact on so many critical success factors of the business: revenue, profit, reputation, staff morale and a whole host of others. The good news is that in 2023 restaurants really don't need to accept a poor booking regime as par for the cause because there are online systems out there which do away with error-strewn manual systems, eradicating double bookings and help with no-shows to boot.

Favouritetable, for example, comes with online booking as standard and allows restaurant owners to stipulate pre-payments and deposits before the reservation is magically (and instantly) whisked through the ether, landing neatly and permanently into an easy-to-use web-based diary.

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