One recent survey found that 80 percent of guests say restaurants help them access favorite flavors that they can’t duplicate at home – or at least that’s what they think – and that’s what drives them to support restaurants. At a time when restaurants are duelling with grocery stores, meal kit companies and even convenience stores for business, it helps to know the reasons compelling your guests to order from you. Are you an end-of-the-work-week treat? Do you offer easy mobile ordering and prompt delivery to suit hungry consumers who want their meal as soon as possible? Do guests trust that you will surprise them with fresh ingredients prepared in inventive ways? Can you package your ingredients in ways that make it easy for a guest to prepare one of your meals for friends at home and look like a talented chef? As you welcome larger numbers of guest orders in person and offsite over the holiday season, solicit people’s feedback about what brought them to you over their many alternatives. Their input may help you to develop plans for new offerings that will help you bring people back and keep business steady in 2023 as economic uncertainty – or simply uninviting winter weather – makes eating out (or even ordering out) a tougher sell.
Remember when the public was just coming out of lockdowns and happily shrugged off restaurants’ limited hours, restricted seating, and unpredictable menus if it meant they could still enjoy a meal from their favorite establishments? You may have noticed that sentiment has faded a bit as consumers have lost patience with the ongoing pandemic. For many customers, the pre-pandemic mentality that “the customer is always right” has returned. They aren’t afraid to voice their dissatisfaction with a restaurant meal – or simply offer unsolicited comments about how the operator could improve the experience. This is despite operators’ ongoing challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, sourcing supplies, and paying larger bills for everything from ingredients to fuel. (A recent Eater report detailed the account of a much-lauded California restaurant that launched early in the pandemic but couldn’t continue operating amid the many demands it faced in the current economy.) Times are far from normal and a looming recession adds to existing pressures, so consider running your business with the same rigor as you did early in the pandemic. That means focusing on the basics of why you’re in business – know what values you stand for, who your ideal customer is, where you are (and aren’t) willing to compromise, what core things you want to make sure you execute well right now, and how many staff members are needed to help you accomplish them. Then don’t be afraid to stand your ground if guests ask for more.