So your restaurant start up has been open for several months. Maybe you’re even nearing your one- or two-year anniversary! Business has slowly picked up steam and you have some room in your profits to invest back into your business.
But the question is… what investments should you choose to make now? After all, you bought the essentials back when you began, so what are the next elements to bring into your restaurant start up? What can best help you build on your profits and expand your bottom line as you zoom into year two?
When you first opened your restaurant start up, you might have had a small staff. And that’s often okay! After all, you don’t want to overhire, especially within your leadership, and then have to let people go when there’s not have enough work and shifts to go around.
But as you grow the business, you could very well discover you need more management-level employees. This is especially true if your current manager(s) is being worn thin by how many shifts they run on a weekly basis; an exhausted manager will not a positive shift make. This is the time to look at your existing team and see if you need more managers. Investing in that strong leadership can make a huge difference for productivity and morale, especially in the first year or two of a restaurant start up.
It’s very easy for employees and management alike to get confused by complicated and outdated labor scheduling. Modern labor management software is designed specifically to make shift scheduling transparent for everyone involved. Every member of your staff using one program can allow for better communication — no more being short staffed because the paper schedule was never updated.
Look for software that offers flexibility with its users, so that your employees can request time off or shift switches right in the app. A good schedule software will also offer you analytics, which come in handy when you’re estimating the future labor needs for your restaurant start up.
Financial Software (and an Accountant)
Modern bookkeeping software is designed to streamline restaurant start up finances. You might have started with a paper and pen system, but you’d be surprised how much more efficient this technology can help your day-to-day bookkeeping. This software is usually designed to help restaurateurs new to bookkeeping learn the ropes, and many brands offer POS system synergy.
Your first or second year in business is also a good time to get an accountant, preferably one that has experience working with a restaurant start up. A restaurant accountant isn’t just for filing taxes once a year — they also can help you plan for ongoing upgrades and expansion. That way, as you move into your second year (and third, and fourth), you’ll have a financial expert advising on the next round of investments you make back into your business.
Modern POS System
For your point of sale (POS) system to be effective for your restaurant start up, it needs to be functional, streamline your operations, and offer both customization and accurate performance reporting.
On top of that, a state-of-the-art POS system should be capable of taking all payment options, as well as accommodate EMV card transactions. And more than ever, you want to ensure the security behind your daily credit and debit card transactions are the best they can be. That’s why investing in a modern, trusted POS system as soon as you can within the early days of your restaurant start up is a good thing.
Extra Cooking Equipment
So you’ve opened your doors and you have all the equipment essentials. That’s good! Now’s the time to look at the equipment that takes your kitchen efficiency and food quality to the next level for your restaurant start up.
Deciding what extra equipment you’ll invest in after your first year really depends on your menu and the needs of your specific kitchen. If your kitchen is making a wide variety of bread and pastries in-house, getting a full-size commercial planetary mixer will increase efficiency (and reduce headaches) for your bakers. Not every kitchen needs a planetary mixer, but you know what kind of equipment will be used on a regular basis and for a wide range of your menu items.
Think about what can what new or upgraded equipment can be used in multiple dishes and what could be easily incorporated into your kitchen staff’s daily routine.
Website and Marketing Strategy
One of the challenges for a restaurant start up is the lack of recognition from local diners. Heck, consumers might not even know your restaurant exists, let alone give it a try.
That’s where your marketing strategy comes in. Watch what popular restaurants (especially ones with similar customer targets) in your area do for their marketing. You shouldn’t follow their lead wholesale; if you’ve come up with a fantastic creative marketing idea to make your restaurant stand out in the best ways, by all means incorporate that idea into your plan. But your successful competitors’ choices might give you a sense of what already works (and what hasn’t) in your market.
Your marketing also should include a website. So many customers search online for restaurant information — often deciding on a place for dinner on-the-go, and directly searching for a specific restaurant’s menu, hours, and address. It’s so important that this information is readily available. Your restaurant website not only offers an information hub, but also allows you to tell the curious web searcher what your restaurant is all about. When it comes to building a brand in your early years, getting a professional-looking, functional (and mobile-friendly) website for your restaurant start up is a must.
Customer Loyalty Program
A loyalty program can be very useful for building the customer base for a new restaurant. Ideally, it gives customers extra incentive to come back and dine with you again. But not all loyalty programs are created equal.
According to Colloquy’s 2017 Loyalty Census Report, 53% of current loyalty program members report that the top reason they participate is “ease of use.” And you want whatever loyalty program you pick to be easy for your restaurant to use as well!
One of the many benefits to participating in Rewards Network’s program is we don’t just drive loyalty. We also send new customers through a restaurant start up’s doors. It’s easy for restaurants and diners alike to set-up and use. There’s no special training or equipment; customers link their credit or debit card to their program account and then they spend money at Rewards Network restaurants. Your servers don’t have to check membership cards and customers won’t even have to mention their membership to receive their rewards.
And you get comprehensive reporting on every visit from a loyalty program member. That’s data most restaurant start ups can only dream of.
Want to see exactly what a turnkey loyalty program can do for your traffic? Download our free ebook “The Key to Successful Restaurant Marketing” today!
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Rewards Network® does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.