At Favouritetable we firmly believe in restaurateurs. As our slogan says, we're passionate about restaurants and will never stop supporting their entrepreneurial spirit, innovative thinking and outright enthusiasm. They are the backbone of the hospitality sector and strive to provide a fantastic experience through the good times and the bad.
And boy, are times bad for many right now. As if all of the troubles brought about by the pandemic were not bad enough, the expected post-Covid “bounce-back” hasn't happened been as great as was anticipated and now restaurant owners are facing a new raft of challenges.
The economy's nose-dive towards recession is seriously denting consumer confidence as interest rates rise and inflation spirals. The knock-on effect of course is less spending on leisure activities and a tightening of the purse strings, causing less restaurant spending and the associated loss of covers and revenue within the sector.
As if that was not bad enough, food inflation is hitting restaurants' finances like never before and eating already squeezed margins, while soaring energy costs are biting hard. Labour shortages are restricting covers, central and local government appear slow to assist and some businesses are hampered by huge debts due to pre-period investment.
We hate to paint a gloomy picture, but there is no sugar-coating the challenges faced by the sector right now. It is incredibly tough out there and will continue to worsen before things get better. What we should never forget is that, despite all of the above, restaurant owners do their utmost to keep their businesses going not just for their own financial gain, but for the service and enjoyment they provide to customers. Restaurant owners, you are a resilient lot and we salute you.
Nobody would blame restaurateurs for feeling a sense of hopelessness right now, but there are some practical steps which owners can take which will help. Here are our thoughts:
Safeguard your reputation
This an obvious one, really. but reputation really is everything. Diners want to be sure that the experience they have grown to love will still be available, with all of the key elements which make it unique. Everything from the style, look & feel, friendly staff and the underpinning values of the business should shine through as a beacon of familiarity, quality, consistency and enjoyment during what are difficult times.
Sure, restaurants may need to adjust their menus, ingredients, portion sizes, prices and probably a host of other things in order to be viable, but the very essence of the brand must remain if it is to capture the custom which remains and beat the competitors.
The ultimate measure of success – and golden nugget to be safeguarded above all else – is revenue and profitability. Restaurants seeing less covers caused some members of the public deciding to stay in rather than eat out may want to think laterally about how they can use what they've got, and what they're brilliant at, to create new sales channels.
A restaurant with a well-equipped kitchen and an existing staff base can pivot towards offering customers the same fantastic food and drink they're used to, but at home. We're not talking about fish & chips takeaway here, but an offer which encompasses the very essence of the restaurant but in a domestic setting.
By offering a dine-at-home option, restaurants are able to sweat their assets and generate revenue in a new sales channel alongside their traditional eat-in services. Using a restaurant management system like Favouritetable, restaurateurs can make the ordering of a dine-at-home experience a beautiful thing. Customers are able to browse menus, take their time, then book a slot for collection or delivery and pay for it – all online. And when the time comes for their meal, the restaurant provides it in a way which does its best to maintain the eat-in experience diners are used to.
The internet is great for distributing your availability and offering an easy way to book online but in hard times that web-reservations on your website alone may not be enough. Wall-to-wall distribution, together with some clever tech, is key to opening up the business to more bookings. Restaurants should consider:
Restaurant directory websites, such as www.favouitetable.com. These give customers the opportunity to browse potential restaurants based on their key criteria and book directly from them, with the reservation going straight into the restaurant's table management software. The great news is that some – like Favouritetable - are commission-free, so there's nothing to lose.
Embrace social media. Customers expect to find their favourite restaurants online, including on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere. Up to date social media pages with regular posts and a way of booking online provide another obvious distribution channel which shouldn't be ignored.
Efficiency through technology
We don't think it is our place to preach about efficiency in general terms, because restaurants are on the front-line and we – as a software company – are not. Restaurateurs know their businesses inside out and have always been masters of slick operations, so our role is to provide tools which dovetail with businesses' own models.
Naturally the holy grail for restaurant owners is a full dining room. But that begs the questions “when?” and “for how long?”. In Favouritetable we've some clever tools which don't just take and place reservations, but actually assist with table capacity planning. By setting booking rules and having the flexibility to move and join tables, restaurants using the system are able to focus on being consistently full, with none of those manual seating errors causing less than optimal seating arrangements. Not only that, slower period can be maximised and waiting lists created.
Times have been, and continue to be, tough for restaurant owners and we don't under-estimate the hard times ahead. Restaurateurs face a barrage of challenges but have proven themselves time and time again to be extremely resourceful and reliant in difficult times.
By diversifying, maximising distribution of availability, creating more efficiencies and most of all safeguarding the reputations they have worked so hard for, they will stand a far better chance of weathering the storm.
Favouritetable is restaurant management software which includes a range of tools to enhance value, from beautifully crafted online booking through to personalised guest communications.