The New Year is a time for everyone to reflect and plan for what’s to come, especially business owners who have a whole new year of business ahead of them. As a new restaurant owner, this may be your first time taking a service business into the new year—and there’s plenty to think about from customer experience to take-out ordering and risk management.
When you make it through the chaos of the holiday season, put on your planning cap and use these expert tips to make sure you start the year off strong.
Risk management is important for all businesses, but it’s especially important for restaurants. CoverWallet’s ebook Managing Restaurant Risks explains: “As an industry where a significant factor in customer satisfaction stems from the speed in which the food is delivered, employees have to operate in a very high pressure environment and at a rapid pace. However, moving quickly serves as a major risk to restaurants and can increase the chance of employee injuries.”
To wrap your mind around potential risks and assessing and mitigating these risks in 2020, consider these areas of focus, as outlined in the same ebook:
Cuts, lacerations and punctures
Repetitive activities that lead to sprains, strains and joint injuries
Lifting heavy items
Customer food poisoning
Customer identity theft
Heading into 2020, your checklist needs to address how you’ll manage the myriad of risks that are inherently associated with running a restaurant.
Checklist: Do we need to hire a risk assessment professional? Do we have all the insurance coverage I need? Are all my employees trained properly? Are all employee certifications up to date?
Customer service is paramount—no matter how digital our lives become, customers want to feel heard and seen and great customer service does that. The good news is, “there are so many opportunities to provide exceptional customer service whether it’s taking a phone order, dealing with a guest complaint, or explaining the menu the service you provide will play an important role in having loyal customers,” says Daniel Lee, head of brand and technology for quick-serve Flame Broiler.
Moving into the new year is a great chance to place a renewed focus on customer service and what you can do to create a better experience for anyone who comes into the restaurant or orders from you.
Checklist: What are all of our customer touchpoints? What are we currently doing to maintain great service? How can we improve that?
Food safety is everyone’s responsibility, and impressing this upon your employees in the new year is critical. While training is important, having on-going support ensures that employees don’t forget about important checks and food safety regulations. Matt Talbot, CEO and co-founder at GoSpotCheck, calls this “creating a culture of food safety.” He suggests one easy way to cultivate this culture:
"In 2020, restaurants will need to mobilize food safety culture with high-Impact, high-ROI activities such as digitizing daily food safety audits. By arming teams with standardized and automated digital formats on their mobile devices, they can turn mobile checklists into tools to drive compliance with intentional sequence with the FSMA.”
With a mobile app like this in your employees’ pockets, they’re able to maintain food safety every day thanks to simple surveys that walk them through daily checks. Talbot explains: “Companies build surveys to audit federal, local, and brand-specific food safety practices across national restaurant networks to ensure that key standards are being met.
Some of these digital food safety products also provide automated alerts, audits and daily operational checklists at specific times each day making it easy, even for brand new employees.
Checklist: What products are available? It is within our budget? If not now, when will it be?
It’s imperative that you take a serious look at restaurant and equipment maintenance as you head into the new year. Mary King, Restaurant and Hospitality Analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com explains:
“The beginning of a new year is a great time to look at all your equipment and make a plan for maintenance, repairs, or replacement. How old is it, does it have active warranties or service agreements or will those expire soon?”
Take this a step further and check in with your team, suggests King. “Are they noticing issues, like leaky ice bins behind the bar, or reach-in refrigerators that are not holding temperature?”
Doing this now can save you time and money down the line. What’s more, doing this now allows you to budget for servicing and replacements that will come up throughout the year so there are fewer surprises.
Checklist: What’s working and what’s been acting up? What will need to be repaired, replaced or updated this year?
A staggering 86 percent of consumers are choosing take-out over in-restaurant dining. This means you need to be prepared to take advantage of this trend. However, Andreea Dobrila of GloriaFood explains: “After getting in touch with thousands of restaurants, we were able to see that the most common struggle is increasing the number of orders they're receiving on a daily basis.”
If you’re not sure how to leverage this trend, or increase your current take-out rate, use these tips from Dobrilla:
Set up promotions for new clients. Incentivize new guests to spend more, while feeling like they’re getting a great deal. For example, provide a free item when new customers spend more than $30 on their first order.
Put a flyer in every takeout bag. Use the flyer to let customers know about your ordering options—can they order online or through a specific app? You can also include a take-out menu or put your popular dishes on the same flyer. Don’t forget to include your logo, website and social media handles.
Print menus with pictures. Dobrilla says, “Adding pictures to your menu can actually trigger your client's visual hunger, even if they are not hungry. Great images can make them crave your dishes.” Invest in a professional photographer and make your menu pop.
Start selling your food via Facebook, which is both simple, convenient and effective because people can do it without leaving Facebook.
Checklist: What do you have budgeted for print marketing? What take-out promotions will you start the year with?
Don’t wait until March to get a jump on these important details. Add them to your January checklist and make sure you’re ready for a successful year. You’ll save time and money by planning ahead instead while setting yourself up to sell more and retain more customers.
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.