Some restaurants thrive on their reputation for staying exactly the same across decades, while others keep guests interested by offering new menus daily. With so many successful restaurants using different strategies, how do you know if change is right for yours?
Knowing when it’s time for a change is part of being a successful restaurant owner or chef and takes some research mixed with gut instinct. While many embrace change, others have major concerns about how new menu items or decor will affect business. Sometimes changes help you gain customers by appealing to different crowds. The disappearance of long-standing favorites can also be a turnoff for loyal customers. But, what matters the most is the quality of their dining experience never changes.
The best place to start in deciding if your restaurant is ready for change is to look at the facts.
- What dishes are selling and which ones aren’t? This may change over time, so be sure to evaluate your menu regularly.
- Be aware of trends in the food industry. Does your menu support any new trends or does it leave out huge groups of diners?
- Evaluate your finances. Are your costs too high?
Once you’ve done your homework and have a good handle on the numbers you can decide if change makes sense and if it should be big or small. The smoothest transition will come if you change one thing at a time, whether it be menu items or decor. This allows your service, atmosphere, and pricing to remain consistent with loyal customer expectations. Decide if you will make changes annually, seasonally, or in some other way. Once you have a plan, stick to it and ensure customers are aware.
If you’re ready to make some menu changes, there are many ways to start small and not replace your entire menu.
- Keep your best-selling dishes and just change out the side dishes.
- Have a separate specials menu that changes while the main menu stays the same.
- Offer options so diners can decide whether they want to embrace the change.
There are many instances when change is warranted. However, there are cases where major changes don’t make a lot of sense. Restaurants with larger menus already provide tons of options so guests can have that feeling of adventure by trying one of the many items they haven’t already. Similarly, if you have a truly unique menu that guests won’t find anywhere else nearby they might not respond well to changes.
Restaurants are an outlet for culinary creativity and they are also businesses. Sometimes you have to turn your chef coat into a culinary suit jacket and get down to business. Change isn’t going to be embraced by everyone, but if you know your customer base well you can find ways to satisfy your desire for change and their desire for consistency.