The second of RMGT’s series on restaurant mistakes looks at common design and facilities maintenance issues. We talk to restaurant consultant Aaron Allen who reveals the mistakes restaurants often make and what they can do to correct them:
1.Not capitalizing on a great location with signage
One business can lose $1 million per year from improper signage. Before you sign a lease on a building make sure you’re allowed to display signage and ensure the city ordinances allow it. Then use it.
If your restaurant is in a mall, direct potential customers around the mall to you. If you have a lot of passing traffic (on foot or in vehicles) you might want to consider blade signage, which sticks out. To find out what works, drive or walk by your restaurant as a potential customer would.
2. The restaurant concept isn’t clear from the exterior design/signage
Houston’s just changed its name to Hillstone but it doesn’t say anything outside about what that is. Customers need to know what the brand promise is; the personality—is it fun and lively, or casual, or serious; what’s the position; and what’s the story? If you know those four things it will be obvious from the outside what the restaurant is. Consider what your answer is to those four elements and then consider your exterior from that.
3. There are right of way issues that make it difficult to get to the restaurant during heavy traffic periods
Chose your location carefully. A location in Orlando, Florida, has found success with the fifth restaurant to open in it because it was the only one to capitalize on traffic patterns, which worked for the restaurant at breakfast time only.
4. Insufficient parking
It’s easy to overlook parking, but don’t. If you don’t have enough and can add parking, do so.
The only problem with a huge parking lot is that while it looks great when it’s full, it looks dreadful when it’s empty. One idea is to have your employees all park in the parking lot at the beginning of the evening and move their cars as you get busy. This is what Allen’s father did with his restaurant to great success.
Don’t offer mandatory valet service because some customers don’t want to pay for it, but do offer it as an option, because the cost of the valet can be easily made up through the increased business.
5. No menus outside (or leaving old, tired, faded menus outside)
If the menus are old and tired it reflects the concept. And if people are looking at your menu it’s because they’re not familiar with your restaurant. Think of it as an advertisement—a free one. Having a clean, updated, and fresh menu outside can typically bring at least 20 new customers into your restaurant each night.
6. Run-down and tired looking exteriors
Parking lots can be very expensive to pave but you could add a blacktop, which really goes a long way in making a restaurant look crisp and clean from the outside. The inside should get dimmer as the night goes on and the outside should get brighter. It should be a beacon.
A fresh coat of paint, fresh grass, clean windows and so on, make a huge difference in what potential customers perceive of your restaurant.
The problem is that restaurants don’t have a budgeted line item for this so can’t afford it when they need to. Maintaining the exterior should be 1 percent to 1.5 percent of every restaurant’s P&L statement—so budget for it.
And don’t forget the little things: Make sure all your light bulbs are working, and that nothing’s cluttering the entrance.
7. Unsightly service areas visible to customers (garbage, dirty equipment, etc.)
Customers should never have to walk past your trash or the rubber mats you’ve left outside to clean. Make sure this is always hidden.
On the flip side, do place a trashcan in a discreet location just outside your front door so customers can dispose of coffee cups, gum, and other garbage.
By Amanda Baltazar