Curtain Up . . . . . . It’s Opening Night!!
Our village is rejoicing at the opening of a new restaurant this week. Opening night has come & gone and rave reviews abound – “portion sizes were huge”; “the prices were really reasonable”; “we will definitely be going back”.
Fantastic!! Well done to the brave entrepreneurs. A great start – or was it?
In a couple of months time when the early doors patrons return, will they come away saying “wow, even better than before” or even “just as good as the first time”. Sadly, I believe they will more likely be reflecting on a less satisfying evening and comments such as “the portion sizes were smaller” and “the service was slower and there didn’t seem to be the same atmosphere”. If statistics are to be believed, they will tell more people about the second visit than the first – another blow to the fledgling business.
Why do new enterprises launch with a fanfare, consciously providing over the top staffing, reduced prices and over delivering on the initial experience, to a level that they cannot sustain or improve on? Once reality sets in they may well be offering a value for money experience with decent food & service to delight but, unfortunately, the customer’s perception is of falling quality of product & service at a higher price = rip off. They vote with their feet, the business has to make cutbacks to cope with falling sales which makes their offering even more diluted. We all know what comes next – another High Street retailer who has come and gone in the blink of an eye.
So, what is the solution? How can these brave, daring entrepreneurs ensure that they create a solid & sustainable business model, with the scope to thrive rather than just survive?
What suggestions do you have? Here are a few of my own thoughts:
• At the planning stage, work through a number of financial scenarios and strive to start with the lowest break even possible – without destroying the offer – to give your business as long a ‘gestation’ period as possible. I always think 9 months as an appropriate time before a business is truly born – seems to work for us!
• Pre-opening get to know your local core market. What are they looking for? What is their budget?
• If you feel that an official launch is needed, consider an evening of “samples” of food that will be on the menu, perhaps at a fixed cost. This would give the opportunity to demonstrate the quality of your core product (the food) in small portions and should be easier to manage. Consider donating £x per booking to a local charity or project.
• Allow room to improve
• Take every opportunity to gain feedback , not a few ticked boxes but real feedback on the food, the prices, the service and overall experience
My only qualification in making these suggestions is that I love food and the experience of eating out – just a customer really! What suggestions can you make which may help a budding restauranteur?
Bob Shimmon, Business Loan Manager for Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire