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10 Ways to Stay Ahead of Your Restaurant Competition


quoted from Ian Macdonald - founder and owner of Macdonald's Gourmet Burgers

Every restaurant owner should constantly be taking an objective look at how well your restaurant is doing. Staying ahead of the competition will keep you on your toes. Here are some ways you can get a good report card.

1. Know who your competition is!
I have encountered situations where a restaurant owner has identified the competition. Or at least what they think is their competition, but they're not. If I am selling Gourmet Burgers with the finest of ingredients, including trimmed premium Scotch Fillet Steak for the beef patties, (like I do), in a licensed restaurant with full service and extras, I am not really in Competition with the greasy burger joint down the road, or a group like Burger King am I?
So make sure your competition is truly your competition in the first place.

2. Get Employees to Sample the Competition.
You should always know what your competition is doing, it is essential to your success. It may be difficult to go yourself though as you would no doubt be known. So send one of your employees instead. Brief them what to look for. It will also give you the opportunity to treat a staff member to something different. How about showing up for work to be told you have to go out to dinner or lunch...all expenses paid!!!
3. Employ the services of a mystery shopper.
This is the reverse of what we have just spoken about. Here you get someone to come to your restaurant and report back to you. So none of you staff know what's going on. I organise this by going to our local business or community college and speaking to someone from the food and beverage school. They always suggest a student that would excel at the project. They earn some money, have some fun, and get a free meal. I often donate something to the college or I might even go and speak to there for them.
Everybody wins.


4. Do a survey or introduce a suggestion box.
This is common, but effective. If you can get their phone number, you can call them back and probably get a few more pointers at the same time. It will also give your customers the impression that you take their feedback seriously, and value their opinions.

5. Provide Hospitality, Not Just Service.
This is one of the best ways to make sure you stay ahead of the competition. So what is the difference between hospitality and service? Hospitality is when you make a personal connection with your guests. It includes things like remembering their preferences, recognizing them when you see them and even anticipating their needs. Service on the other hand, is a matter of just doing what you have to do .... Taking the order give the food and take the money.
I have some friends that every time they go to their favorite restaurant, there is always their usual drink at their table waiting for them. They love it. They feel extra special.
Hospitality keeps guests coming back, whereas service keeps them going anywhere else!

6. Be aware of your customer's preferences and usual favourites.
Customers love to feel special. Most diners go to a restaurant for an experience, not just a meal. You know how it is if you go somewhere regularly and they can never remember you, or they do, but they can't remember your name. How special do you feel then? If a customer orders the same drink all the time, not only do they think it is nice if you remember, they will soon start to wonder why you can't if you don't. Customers always are impressed when a server remembers their preferences or favourites from visit to visit.

7. Don't get too chatty with guests.
It's great to have a chat with customers, and it should be encouraged, but it should not be overdone. A server may even spend extra time with a customer before the food arrives, however they should be basically left alone after that, other than checking for additional needs.

8. Think of customers as family and close friends.
Think of your family members and your friends for a moment. You know that Harry likes seafood but does not like oysters. Warren only drinks single malt scotch and Jenny loves Chardonnay. Bob likes ice cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and hates garlic. Get to know your customers the same way and it will pay off.

9. Keep record cards.
I like to keep small record cards about customer's details and preferences. They record information about a customer's likes and dislikes. It has birthdays, anniversary dates and any other information that is deemed important to help make them feel special. Reward your servers every time they add something to a card. Don't get too nosy, but generally people love to share information with people they trust.

10. Treat complaints as an opportunity to fix something and develop a closer relationship.
OK...it happens! It does not matter how efficient you are, you will always have to deal with complaints.

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