Many restaurant operators started 2023 with a growth mindset fueled by the “headwinds” of 2022 along with reports from industry think tanks like the National Restaurant Association that indicate continued consumer demand for the “experience” of dining out. When the demand is high, we tend to get comfortable; however, in a world where bank collapses, industry-wide layoffs, and talks of impending recession can rattle not only markets but consumers – we must continue influencing demand.
So, how do we continue influencing demand in a volatile economy?
The answer lies in what consumers want from your business. Notice the NRA calls it the “experience” of dining out. Customers aren’t just searching for a good meal, they want to feel connected to your restaurant, be treated well, and have an overall experience that surpasses that of your competitors.
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There are five areas that restaurant operators must focus on in the good times, so when volatility hits, you have a loyal consumer base to get you through to the other side.
IDENTIFY: Operators must focus on the restaurant’s ideal customer. Who are they? What are their lives like? What are their needs and expectations? Once you narrow down who you are focusing on, you can better determine the specifics on how your restaurant can serve them.
ATTRACT: How can you reach your ideal customer groups? It’s much easier to meet potential customers where they are rather than trying to push them toward your offerings in areas where they aren’t already engaging. How do you persuade them to give your restaurant a try? Can you provide offerings that specifically meet their lifestyle needs as well as satisfy their palates? Are you considering current customers as ambassadors of your business? Remember: Word of mouth is extremely powerful.
ENGAGE: Have you identified ways to show these potential loyalists that they are valued? Is your staff well-trained and ready to engage them with excellent customer service?
CONVERT: Is your restaurant’s pricing strategy competitive and aligned with the value and experience your customer is receiving from the team? Do you offer a solid loyalty program? Are you able to communicate directly with your customers via email or social media?
RETAIN: Is your restaurant consistent with order accuracy, cleanliness, and quality? Does your team have the capacity, ability, and desire to provide a consistent and excellent experience? Are you promoting platforms for customer feedback?
While some entrepreneurs believe that demand cannot be “controlled,” I always put forth the argument that “demand” can be influenced if we look at it as part of our overall customer experience strategy.
The “experience” of your restaurant must be solidified when demand is high, so it will sustain when economic volatility causes consumers to begin pulling back on spending.
Along with focusing on the customer directly, there are ways the experience can be navigated behind-the-scenes as well. Making certain you have data to forecast demand, ensure consistency, more effectively use resources, and reduce waste is how we utilize platforms like Restaurant365.
If you’d like to talk about ways to increase consumer demand and ensure your restaurant is equipped to handle growth, please don’t hesitate to reach out.