What Factors Make a Successful Restaurant?
Back 1964 Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity, “I know it when I see”, most of us who dine out on a regular basis offer a similar expression when asked about a restaurant being successful. And as the conversation continues you rapidly come to the understanding that the person you are talking with has no idea what they are talking about.
Some people automatically think that a restaurant must be successful if they have to wait for longer than forty-five minutes to get seated. What must be understood here is that just because a restaurant is on a wait that does not mean that the establishment is successful. The wait could be caused by a shortage of wait staff on any particular night. It could also be caused by any one of many problems that the kitchen is having. Please do not fall into the trap of equating a wait for a table as the restaurant being successful.
For a restaurant to be successful several key points must be addressed by ownership. First the quality of food prepared and served must be top-notch. Second the ability of a server to perform at a high level must be present. Thirdly the bar must be able to make satisfying drinks with speed and accuracy. Fourth there had better be a better than decent wine list offering some of the best quality wines at a fair price. And lastly, the desert menu should make your mouth water even before the first cocktail is served.
All food items should be fresh. Some foods can be flash frozen which means they are frozen in a very fast and quick manner after being harvested. One of the advantages to flash frozen food is that when the item is thawed it maintains the quality of being fresh. You find this in most seafood items except for restaurants on a coast line. Some meat products undergo this process as well but special care needs to utilized when freezing both red meat and pork.
It is also important that all kitchen workers be trained to the perform at the best and highest level. A line cook, while not being a chef, if trained properly should be able to prepare most food items to the same expertise of a chef. It is usually best that a chef does the training or at least someone who has worked in a test kitchen with chefs. Training is the key here, one of the best training methods out there is the, I tell I do, I tell you do, you tell you do method. This insures that the line cook not only knows how to prepare a certain dish but also understand why it is being prepared in the manner that it is.
One of the best ways to offer a dinner a wonderful night is to make sure you have only the best servers working. It has been said many times that a poor meal can be overlooked if the service is great. To make a great server training is the key. Your servers need to know that nothing is worse than for the customer to seated at a table and then made to wait for any time at all before being acknowledged. Even if the acknowledgement is only eye contact, most dinners will be comfortable. And one must remember that if you are forced to wait for three minutes it really feels like ten. So make sure your servers understand that greeting a guest is paramount to the evening. Also it is very important that a smile should always be what your guest sees. If this is missing then it is a good chance that the evening will no be anywhere near enjoyable.
After greeting the guest a server needs to be knowledgeable about all the drinks that are available from the bar. He or she should also know the wine list and should have been trained in both pairings and presentation of the wine selected. Here it is always good if the server can make a recommendation of a wine for any food ordered. To be able to accomplish this task the knowledge of the menu is vital. Simply knowing the price of a meal is least important. The ability to correctly explain the varied taste of a dish and how it is prepared is one of the keys. Also speed of service is very important. Here the server needs to have an excellent idea as to how long any order will take to be prepared and brought to the table. Knowing that it only takes six minutes for a rare steak but fifteen for a well done is important. If this is not known and the server says your meal will be out in ten minutes but it takes twenty then the guest will not be happy. And if you guest is not happy you must remember that a dissatisfied guest will tell at least ten people about the bad experience but a happy guest will only tell one or two.
Alcohol service plays an important role in the success of any restaurant. Whether it is a good variety of tap and bottled beer, good,better, or excellent liquors, and the wines, all of these will play the catch-all role of guest satisfaction. It is not good enough to have top of the line spirits and beers, if your bartender does not know how to make a requested drink, or makes them poorly or extremely slow your guest will again not be happy. Here it is important to make sure that your bar staff is well-trained and if necessary have a bar bible so that they can look up the recipe of any drink ordered.
If your restaurant is serving red meat, seafood, or any of the specialty foods like Italian, Cajun, or even Chinese your wine list needs to be top-notch. This does not mean that you need several bottles priced at over two hundred dollars but it does mean that your wines need to hold up to their pairings and be enjoyable to consume. Most restaurants can not afford to hire a wine steward but with the proper research and asking the right questions of your distributor you will be able to learn and therefore offer your guest good wines at a fair price.
Finally while a lot of your guest will decline dessert many will take the leap and enjoy the additional calories. To hook these guest you need to be offering something that they can not pick up at the local grocery store. Whether it is a variety of cheese-cakes, unusual pies, or even a flambe this final item needs to set your restaurant apart from any other in town. It could be a good idea to make all of your desert items extra-large so that your wait staff will be able to suggest one item to be shared. Most couples will like this idea and your ticket average has just gotten a nice bump. It is also good to be able to offer a few dessert wines and an excellent cup of coffee to go with the item selected.
The factors mention here are just a few of the items that play a large role in any restaurant being successful. The biggest problem is that even though these make perfect sense they are very easy to over look. If it is your true desire to own or manage a successful restaurant make sure that these four factors are understood and in place. For if only one is missing then people will talk, but the words that they share with friends or family will be anything but complementary.