Restaurant management is a complex job, whether you’re opening your first restaurant or have a string of successful restaurants behind you. Running a restaurant involves thinking about everything from the overall concept, design, marketing, layout, staff management, customer service, and business management. This is all in addition to the most important ingredient – the food.
Successful restauranteurs know that they cannot be an expert in all these areas and often look for the guidance of a restaurant consultant to assist in areas they may be less skilled in. A restaurant consultant can help you improve the overall performance of your restaurant.
What Restaurant Consultants Do
Restaurant consultants are hired to help fix issues in various aspects of restaurant businesses. Simply put, restaurant consultants specialize in helping you run your business.
If you are looking to launch your business as best as you can, or to simply improve your existing restaurant, consider hiring a restaurant consultant. Think of this as an investment, not just an expense.
Restaurant consultants can assist in all areas of restaurant management. Some of the most common projects restaurant consultants handle include providing overall assessments, marketing, improving customer service and reducing expenses.
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Most restaurant consultants will start with an assessment. During this phase, they will gather all of the necessary information in order to make recommendations on how to best launch or improve your restaurant. Once the consultant has provided his or her recommendations, you can choose at that point to tackle the action items yourself or continue working with the consultant if you do not feel comfortable completing the projects on your own. Your consultant will work with your goals and budget to make sure the plan is executable and affordable.
A restaurant consultant can create an overall marketing plan for your business. Some restaurateurs consider hiring a marketing firm to handle the promotion of their restaurant. However, they quickly discover that marketing or PR firms can be too expensive for one single restaurant. Your consultant will either handle your marketing directly or come up with a promotion and brand strategy utilizing outsourced agencies that the consultant is familiar with and trusts. This strategy will include everything from the overall restaurant concept to web design and the social media strategy.
Part of the marketing aspect of restaurant consulting can include interior designing as well. Quality restaurant design requires a lot more than just a good eye. It is also important to understand how restaurants flow, how employees will interact with the design, and how the architecture of the space and the layout of the building itself can impact the overall design. An experienced restaurant consultant will be able to guide you in creating a beautiful and functional floor plan.
Many restauranteurs have a strong idea of how they want to promote their restaurant. Your marketing consultant should take your ideas into account and combine those with industry best practices. If you do not feel that your consultant is listening to your ideas, you may want to find another consultant.
Improving Customer Service
Besides the food, customer service is the most important part of your customer’s experience. Everyone that your customer might interact with, from your hostesses to servers, to managers must be highly rated for your restaurant to be successful. Your restaurant consultant can create protocols and procedures to ensure quality for each customer.
Restaurant consultants can train your existing staff to be at the top of their game, or find new candidates if needed. A restaurant consultant can train these employees so that they understand the new protocols and standards, and make sure they do what is expected. It is far too common that a restaurant receives rave reviews when the owner or primary manager is present, but quality slips when that person leaves. A restaurant consultant can help make sure that does not happen at your business.
While it may be true that you have to “spend money to make money”, a restaurant consultant can help make sure that money is being spent wisely. A consultant can analyze where you may be overspending, and where you can save. Common issues that arise in restaurant financial management include hiring too many people, not keeping detailed accounting records, overspending on food, and not pricing food properly.
For example, if your business has had trouble keeping accurate records, a restaurant consultant may recommend new technology to make the process easier. The consultant will advise you on the appropriate technology and show you and your staff how to use it.
If overspending on food or not pricing properly an issue, a restaurant consultant can assist with menu and recipe development. Menu engineering is a mixture of art and math. While restauranteurs and chefs often have ideas on what will taste great and appeal to guests, a restaurant consultant can also optimize your menu and recipes based on cost and efficiency.
It is important to remember that a restaurant consultant’s job is to help your business be successful. Therefore, he or she is not looking to become a long-term financial burden to your restaurant.
Who Should Hire a Restaurant Consultant?
Almost any restaurant could benefit from a tweak from a trusted advisor. Restaurant consultants can be hired before a restaurant launches, or after it has been running for any length of time. If you are already in business, it may be time to consider hiring a consultant if sales dip without explanation, there are long term issues that you haven’t been able to fix, or if you simply want to grow your business significantly from how it is currently performing. If, at some point, as a restaurateur, you feel like your situation is hopeless, understand that there are professional restaurant consultants who are waiting to help you.
How to Find a Restaurant Consultant
First, ask your peers for recommendations. While it is sometimes hard for entrepreneurs, especially those in the restaurant industry, to admit they need help – asking another restaurant manager for a recommendation may provide the best option.
If you do not know anyone who has used a restaurant consultant or does not feel comfortable asking for references, you can search online. You are likely to find several restaurant consultants in your area, so it will be important for you to do your research and make sure that you are investing your time and money into someone worthwhile.
How to Hire a Restaurant Consultant
Once you find a restaurant consultant that you’re interested in working with, be sure to validate their credentials. They should be able to supply references. You can also look for reviews of their services online. It is also incredibly helpful if they have worked in a restaurant before, either as a chef, service member, or manager.
You should look at the types of restaurants your potential consultant has worked with. You’ll want to find a restaurant consultant who works on restaurants most like your own. While looking at the potential consultant’s portfolio, you should also ask for specifics on the type of work performed by the consultant for each client. In some cases, a consultant may display the logo of a prominent brand he or she worked for – but may have only been a waiter or other employee there, not an executive consultant.
In addition to restaurant type, you’ll also want to think about specialization. If your business is brand new, perhaps the most important aspect will be restaurant promotion and marketing. You should look for a restaurant consultant with a strong background in marketing and communications. Similarly, if your restaurant is well-established, but needs to reduce overall expenses or work on customer service, then a consultant who specializes in finance or service might be a better fit. Any reputable restaurant consultant will likely be able to help with each of these areas and more, but it can be in your best interest to seek out a consultant whose expertise lies in the specific needs of your restaurant.
Personality is also a big factor in the hiring process for a restaurant consult. This person will be advising you and working closely with your team. Regardless of how talented he or she may be, if you cannot communicate well, the consultancy will likely not be a positive experience for either party. A restaurant consultant is hired as an asset. They are not there to completely take over but to work with you to make your business thrive. If you find them difficult to talk to, you are less likely to see the types of results you want.
Lastly, make sure the potential consultant’s goals align with your own. The consultant should be able to provide you with the success metrics they plan to use for the partnership whether that’s through sales or comment cards from guests. You should be wary of any consultant who promises immediate ROI unless they are optimizing financials and reducing costs directly. As any businessperson knows, investments take time. But if you choose someone with strong experience and expertise, the consultant will be worth the money.