Grow Your Restaurant Business in 2017

Own a restaurant? You’re in a booming industry. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Industry Factbook, projected sales for restaurants in 2016 were $782.7 billion.

The same report found that half of consumers say restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle. So how can you compete and expand? Here are some tips so you can get growing!

Start Small

The Beer Cellar, located just outside of Chicago, was originally located in a basement below a women’s clothing boutique. While not exactly an ideal space, owner Dave says starting small was a great strategy for him. He was able to build a passionate customer base and was in a strong financial position for expansion in a few short years. Don’t think that you need all the bells and whistles and expensive overhead to run a successful restaurant. Provide great food, encourage positive word-of-mouth reviews and plan for future growth while keeping an eye on costs.

Shop Around

Don’t go with the first food distributor or restaurant supply company you come across. If you have a strong credit score, you’ll be in a good position to negotiate lower prices and better terms. Working with vendors isn’t the only way to cut costs when running a restaurant. Shop around when it comes to rent payments, credit cards, utilities, insurance, maintenance and other expenses. Controlling overhead can strengthen your cash flow and put you in a strong position for expansion.

Train Your Staff Well

Do you have an employee-training program? Even the smallest restaurants benefit when the staff is well trained. From setting goals to scheduling, a comprehensive plan benefits you, your employees and ultimately your customers. BPlans has a helpful guide to help you launch a program here: How to Create an Employee Training Plan for Your Restaurant.

Pay Attention to Online Reviews

“I’ll never eat here again!” Hearing this from a customer is never pleasant. However, technology has taken customer complaints to a whole new level. Poor Yelp reviews can gather traction and sink a restaurant. Even top restaurants can receive scathing reviews from unhappy customers.

“I strongly believe in monitoring what people are saying about your brand,” says Lori Randall Stradtman, author of Online Reputation Management for Dummies. “You want to be in a position to take control of your reputation so that a few people with sour grapes can’t sully your name.”

If you don’t have the bandwidth to monitor and respond to online reviews, consider tasking a team member with that responsibility or hiring a freelance social media professional.

Implement a Content Strategy

Online content – whether social media, a newsletter or blog posts – can be an invaluable way to engage current customers and attract new diners.

Set up an account on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram for your restaurant and encourage customers to check in, post pictures and share their experience. You can even offer customers a discount or free item for a social media check in. Keep social media channels active by posting regularly. You don’t have to just feature you food – you can highlight a team member, give information about community events or share other news that your target audience might enjoy or find helpful.

Seek Funding

We hear this question frequently, “If my business is successful, why would I need a loan?” The answer is simple: If you acquire low-cost funding, you can use those funds in a variety of ways to strengthen your finances and expand.

If you’ve been in business two years or more, have a healthy credit score and meet other requirement, you might qualify for an SBA loan. Known as the gold standard for small businesses, proceeds can be used in a variety of ways. In addition to using funds for working capital, you can use SBA loan proceeds to hire additional staff, purchase equipment, increase marketing and more. There are even SBA loans available for purchasing or refinancing owner-occupied commercial real estate.

Check out our post about a busy restaurant using a SmartBiz SBA loan to expand: Small Business Success Story: Porta Del Sol.

Are you ready to grow your restaurant business? Visit SmartBiz today and discover in about five minutes if you’re qualified for a low-cost SBA loan.