Optimisation ideas for your restaurant

posted on 12/01/2016 13:49:40 by James McAllister

Nobody said running a business would be easy, and moulding an idea into a fully functional restaurant is a feat within itself - but the work doesn’t stop there. As with any business, there are always things that can be done to optimise the way your restaurant operates - not only to increase profitability, but also to improve your service. 

But, optimising the way that your restaurant runs is not just another step on the road to success. In fact, it’s a vital and ongoing process to help ensure that your business stays on top of market developments and evolving industry trends. 

Below we have listed three ways to improve your restaurant business and enhance the quality of your service, as well as your bottom line. However, before we begin it’s important to note that the advice given here is intended only as a guideline, and may have to be tweaked in order to suit your restaurant’s individual circumstances. 

How to design a restaurant floor plan

When initially designing a restaurant floor plan, many owners will look to maximise their dining space by fitting in as many table covers as possible. However, after you’ve been operational for a few months, you may be able to recognise a more efficient way of utilise the space available to you.

It’s worth asking yourself the following questions:

Does your restaurant’s floor plan design achieve what you’ve set out in your business plan?

Having the correct floor plan for your restaurant is key to shaping your business. For example, if you wanted to focus on being a quick service restaurant, then an open floor plan is crucial in facilitating this. But, if you’re looking to create a sense of occasion for your diners, then perhaps forming an intimate atmosphere by dividing your restaurant into different sections is the way to go.

Have you followed the basics of restaurant design?

Once your restaurant is up and running, you will probably begin to notice choke points in your restaurant’s layout that you had not previously considered. Alternatively, you may notice a number of customers asking for directions to the bathroom. If this is the case, a simple reorganisation of your restaurant’s floor plan may be the answer. You should also make sure that your staff have a clear navigable route to and from the kitchen. Finally, it’s important that you make concessions to allow access to all exits and toilet facilities for customers with disabilities.

What about the kitchen staff?

Having a fully optimised restaurant means nothing if you haven’t got efficiency in the kitchen to match. Ensure you have a clearly defined flow for foot traffic when you’re designing your restaurant’s kitchen floor plan - your staff should be able to easily move around during busy periods. It can often help to confer with your chef about the kitchen layout to achieve the smoothest service possible, which can lead to a happier workforce, and a better overall experience for customers. 

When designing a restaurant floor plan, the idea of reducing the number of covers that a restaurant can seat at once may seem counter intuitive. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the improvements you’re making to your restaurant’s design will help refine your service. In turn, this will result in a faster turnaround of tables to compensate for the reduced number of covers. However, if this isn’t the case, there is always scope to tweak your floor plan to strike a balance between the efficiency of service and the volume of customers your restaurant can seat. 

Restaurant menu design ideas

A restaurant’s menu design plays an important part in your customer’s journey, and it should achieve much more than simply communicating what dishes are on offer. A well planned out menu will not only tell customers what’s available, but it can also embody an overall theme by complementing the interior design of your restaurant, and even help boost your revenue.

With so much to achieve, many restaurant owners will choose to employ the services of a professional menu designer. But, there are certain tactics that you can utilise yourself to garner similar results without the expense.

When looking to create the best possible menu design, the burden of choice is a mistake that many restaurant owners fall into. There’s nothing worse than the waitress coming over to your table and the panic setting in as you attempt to comprehend all the dishes on offer. Not only can this lead to longer service times as customers take longer to peruse the menu, but it also means that your customers may overlook your higher profit dishes.

The number of dishes on offer should be dictated by the proposition of your restaurant. For example, if your focus is on efficient service, then experts suggest that your menu layout should offer no more than 6 dishes per category (starters, mains, sides and desserts), and no more than 10 if you are creating a fine-dining experience. 

menu-z-path

Another restaurant menu design idea that many experts subscribe to isthat customers will first scan a menu in a “Z” pattern, and are immediately attracted to dishes framed in boxes. As such, you should look to create a restaurant menu layout with higher profit margin dishes located on this “Z” path within an attention grabbing box.

The wording and font that is used on your menu can also have a huge impact on the dishes that your customers order. At the very least the font you use should reflect your restaurant’s interior design, but by simply adding a heavier weight to the font of a high profit margin dish, you can manipulate your customer’s attention, and make these dishes stand out more.

 

Adjectives one way to help make simple dishes sound more appealing. As well as using descriptive words, another top tip used by many restaurant menu designers is to include foreign words in your meal descriptions. Not only does this help your food appear more exotic, but it also makes for an excellent ice breaker to open up conversations between your staff and customers – however, this must be fitting with the theme of your restaurant.

Finally, think about your pricing when creating a restaurant menu template. Do you have any premium priced dishes that struggle to sell? Try “anchoring” these dishes by featuring them next to an even more expensive option on your menu. This way, the premium priced dish will not seem as expensive by comparison. Remember, customers are much more likely to buy the second most expensive dish on the menu, rather than the most expensive. 

When putting together your restaurant’s menu, it may seem like an unnecessary expense to employ a professional menu designer. But, it’s important that you view this cost in relation to the increased revenue that your business could enjoy thanks to a fully optimised menu design.

Improve your customer journey

Every restaurant will have busy periods, and it’s at these times that you will notice the true benefits of a fully optimised restaurant. Once you’re up and running, you should have a good idea of when your restaurant’s peak periods are. You should then aim to improve your restaurant’s ordering system and overall service during these times - and you can do this in a number of different ways.

On top of ensuring that you have enough staff on the rota for peak periods, you can also let customers view your menu in advance. With more and more people accessing the web through smart phones and other portable devices, it is highly likely that a large proportion of your customer base will navigate to your restaurant’s website to view your menu online prior to dining with you. This can not only help you give your customers a sense of what your restaurant is like, but it can also reduce ordering times, which increases overall customer turnaround. 

Using an online restaurant booking system is another way to improve the efficiency of your service. This will make it more convenient for your customers to book a table, while freeing up your staff’s time, which can then be dedicated to improving your diner’s experience. 

It can also be highly beneficial to know who the main clientele who visit your restaurant are, and optimise your service to suit their needs. For example, if you have a large lunch time rush, with young professionals popping in for a bite to eat, you may want to focus on serving fast, cost efficient food. With this in mind, it can help to think about lunch menu ideas, and designing a specials menu board to display deals clearly for customers who are in a rush. 

Alternatively, if your core demographic are families, then it may be worth investing in the design of a kids menu, as well as child friendly offers - such as a ‘kids eat free’ promotion - to entice families in. This will help to ensure that your customers remain happy with your service, and can improve the chance of repeat custom.

You should be aiming to make your service as efficient as possible right up until the moment that your customers leave your restaurant – and this includes providing several methods of payment. Most modern restaurants accept cash and card payment as part of a standard billing system, but as technology continues to advance, so do the number of options that customers have when it comes to paying. Apple pay, for example, is being widely adopted by many businesses in Britain as a billing system that offers customers the freedom of choice that they have come to expect. 

The final piece in the optimisation puzzle is a POS system. A restaurant’s POS till software will not only make everyday tasks, such as taking orders and tracking tabs, easier by automating the process, but it will also reduce the number of mistakes that are made.

It is important to note that some investment cost will be required if you wish to install a POS software for your restaurant, but this cost should be framed within the flexibility that this software offers your business, which can quickly offset any upfront costs. In addition, many other changes that can be made to your customer journey will not cost you anything up front, but they will all make for happier customers and a healthier bottom line.

On a final note, it’s important to remember that any larger changes to your business may affect your restaurant insurance. For example, adding am open kitchen could increases your employers' liability cost It’s always worth informing your insurance provider of any major changes that you do make so they can appropriately alter your restaurant insurance policy accordingly.  

James McAllister

James is an online content creator at Make It Cheaper. Having previously created a variety of content for a number of websites and media outlets, James focuses on making it easy for SME owners to find interesting and engaging content - as well as useful guides and online tools.You can email James at james.mcallister@makeitcheaper.com

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