5 Super Effective Strategies to Save Your Restaurant Money

Why do businesses try to cut costs? Simple. They want to raise their profit margin. Regardless of the industry you’re in, one of your primary goals should be to lessen the operating cost and boost your revenues. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned.

But how can you effectively save your restaurant money without compromising quality? Here are the top strategies many successful restaurant owners swear by:

1. Track where your money goes.

First of all, to save your restaurant money, you want to watch every penny – constantly. Remember that businesses have different circumstances. Some restaurant owners might simply be having problems with poor sales while others have issues with overspending. A great starting point is to look at your financial records. Which area gets the biggest chunk of your restaurant budget? Why? Are there things that you can change or make better in order to cut the cost? It’s hard to tell if you’re really making money and saving some without looking at your financial reports.

Data shows that 73% of restaurant operators that received monthly financial statements reported being profitable as compared with just 49% of operators who received quarterly or annual statements. It’s hard to identify the best solution without really knowing the problem. So take time going over your financial records now and most of all – make it a habit!

2. Focus on being efficient and systematic.

When managing a restaurant, they key is to be as efficient as possible with everything – from staffing to the actual food preparation and use of equipment and utility. Speaking of utilities, like many restaurants, you rely heavily on the use of electricity and gas which constitutes one of your biggest spending. Of course, you need it for cooking, ventilation, refrigeration, lighting, cooling, etc. According to this report by the National Grid, restaurants in the U.S. spend $2.90 per ft2 and $0.85 per ft2 annually on electricity and natural gas, respectively.

There are many ways to reduce your restaurant’s energy costs. Simply turning things off when not in use (from lights to the AC, heater, etc.) and switching to energy-saving appliances greatly help. The National Grid U.S. says a 20% reduction in energy directly translates into 1% increase in profit. Aside from gas and electricity, try to be frugal with other things as well, such as water and other supplies you use on a daily basis, from that dishwasher soap to the table napkins, disposable plastic containers (consider switching to glass), straws, paper towels, etc. Again, every penny saved is a penny earned.

3. Check if your menu needs some update or rework.

You may not be aware of it, but your hard-earned dollar could be going out with the trash bin or compost pile. Today’s restaurants are giving more attention to managing food waste to rein in costs, according to the National Restaurant Association. In fact, 40% of food is wasted throughout the supply chain, and the foodservice industries are responsible for majority of that number.

Now here’s the deal – for every $1 you invest in food waste management program, you are saving $7 on your operational costs! There are many ways to cut food waste. Begin by revisiting your menu. Check if you can remove those that aren’t selling fast. Rethink how you offer buffet service. Watch out for ingredients spoiling before you get the chance to utilize them. Reduce overproduction and repurpose excess food.

Of course, once you revamp your menu, make sure you are updating it online as well. With 93% of people viewing menus online before choosing a place to eat, this is essential. Utilizing a menu management company, like SinglePlatform, can help cut costs by saving your staff time.

SinglePlatform gets your menu on all of the places people are searching without you having to do all the work, saving restaurants over 400 hours per year!

4. Resort to low-cost yet highly effective marketing approaches.

Whether you’re just starting or have been in the industry for a long time, marketing is vital to your success. On average, small businesses spend 1% of their revenues on marketing. That means if your annual profit is $100,000, $10,000 of that goes to advertising.

If you want to lower your marketing costs, there’s probably no cheaper alternative to online marketing. You can even get free exposure simply by creating a Facebook page or an Instagram account. Of course, these social media platforms have fee-based services, but they are less expensive than traditional marketing approaches. However, to get traction, you really have to commit time on managing your social media accounts, from creating daily posts to answering questions from customers.

5. Get ahead of your bills.

Lastly, never miss out on payments. Whether it’s your commercial space lease, inventory, personal loans, employee payroll, or utility bills, you should settle your accounts payable on time to avoid hefty interests. Plus, it is easier to manage your cash flow when you are just paying for the current bills, and not having to think about penalties, charges and arrears. What are some of the best ways to manage your restaurant expenses? Start by making a list of all your bills. Then, create a payment schedule that works for you. You can streamline the payment process by making automatic bill payments through your bank.

Additionally, pay your business taxes on time. Get clear on your tax obligations. As a rule of thumb, you need to save 30% of your business income to ensure you have enough money for your federal tax dues. To be sure however, consult your CPA early on.

To establish and sustain a profitable restaurant business, one of your major goals should be to save your restaurant money. Despite the downturns in the economy and the food industry, the good news is that you can always cut your costs and save using these five foolproof strategies.

About the Author: Lidia Staron has been working as a writer, editor and literary coach for 5 years. She contributes articles about the role of finance in the strategic-planning and decision-making process. You can find really professional insights in her writings.

Are You Making These 5 Restaurant Marketing Mistakes?

Mistakes happen. With all of the noise, social influences, and marketing tactics out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when deciding how to market your business. Maybe you’re focusing too much on restaurant operations that you haven’t even had time to think about marketing. Maybe you’ve put your eggs in too many marketing baskets & you’re just not seeing results.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to evaluate your marketing plan and ensure you’re not making these 5 common restaurant marketing mistakes.

1. Not Defining an Audience

Yes, food is a primal necessity to all human beings and creatures alike. Everyone needs sustenance and most of us are usually looking forward to our next meal. But, although you’re in an industry that serves the masses, when it comes to marketing, you need to define a target audience. Successful companies have done their due diligence to define their target demographic before marketing to them. Why? Because it makes your marketing much stronger and thus, more enticing.

Take Dunkin’ (yes, they’re getting a brand new name come January!) for example. They are in the midst of re-branding and shifting their focus to be more coffee-centric and less about the food and well, doughnuts. When you think about Dunkin’s target audience, think about their slogan. “America Runs on Dunkin’” is a powerful catchphrase that is apparent in much of their marketing efforts. And it pertains perfectly to their target audience – middle-class working professionals ages 18-45.

Whether you’re headed to an early college lecture or on your way to work on a Wednesday, coffee is a pick-me-up for most people with hectic schedules. Dunkin’ is there to be the fuel to get you through the day. And their marketing resonates with you because it hits on that nerve.

When it comes to your restaurant’s marketing plan, think about your customer base. Are there mostly families visiting for dinner after school and work? Do you cater to teens and young adults with trendy Instagram-worthy drinks and desserts? Or maybe you run a brew pub that sees an influx of sports fans on nights and weekends. The way in which you market to these different audiences will be extremely different. Think about who your target, ideal customer is and then build your marketing strategy around that.

Of course, you may have a more diverse customer base, which is fine. Come up with different marketing personas that can be the guideline for each target audience. Want to learn more about what marketing personas are? Read this Buffer article. Then, devise your marketing campaigns and the best way to disseminate your message each target group. It’ll be much more successful than pushing out generic content with no real purpose.

To learn more about marketing to your target audience, check out this post.

2. Keeping an Outdated Website

 This is Apple’s website circa 1997! Via CNN This is Apple’s website circa 1997! Via CNN

If you were born before the turn of the 21st century, you remember dial-up Internet and computers larger than the size of a New York City apartment. Having a website was a rarity that could be compared to receiving snail mail today. They were ultra hip, but looking back now, very, very cringe-worthy.

Today, there are so many different options for buying a domain and creating a stunning, modern website. And it’s never been easier to make one or have someone else create it for you. With the ease and availability of it all, there’s not a great excuse for having an outdated website that hasn’t been updated since you first heard about Y2K.

An outdated website isn’t a good representation of your brand, and in turn, your restaurant. People are looking for high-quality photos of your dishes, a full menu with all of your offers, and any other information about upcoming events or specials. If you don’t have a clear, concise, and attractive website, web surfers will probably hit the escape button before they even scroll.

Your website should also be mobile-responsive so it renders well on any type of mobile device from an iPhone to a tablet. Pew Research shows that 77% of people in the US search on mobile devices, so give them an experience that is streamlined rather than cumbersome.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a website because it was too difficult to navigate on my phone, find out more information, and even make a purchase. And I’m not alone. 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load. You don’t want to lose website traffic or potential customers due to a lousy mobile or desktop site.

Unsure of where to begin? As mentioned, there are plenty of options out there, like Weebly, Squarespace, and Sitebuilder, to name a few. We can also help you create the website your restaurant deserves. Plus, we have a crew of seasoned professionals that can do all the heavy lifting for you. Get in touch to learn more about our website services.

3. Posting on Social Media Haphazardly

Social media can be both confusing and overwhelming. When you open a social app, you can’t be sure if you’re going to see a bunch of memes, some vacation selfies, or politically-fueled rants. We’ve given basically everyone a virtual milk carton to stand on and millions are taking advantage every day. Instagram has 500 million daily active users and Facebook? 1.47 billion.

So, how do you break through all the clutter?

One way to not be effective on social media is to post haphazardly. When I say this I mean just posting for the sake of posting, distributing low-quality content, and not thinking about how social media is going to positively impact your business.

Let’s face it, people on social media love to look at food. The hashtag has about 300 million posts associated with it, and there’ll soon be more where that came from. But, people don’t necessarily like to look at all photos of food that are floating around in cyberspace. If you’re posting blurry, unappetizing pictures of meals, you’re not going to make any mouths water or fingers double-tap.

As a restaurant, you have the golden opportunity to build a steady following because of your awesome content. So take advantage! Think about your goals for social media. Are you trying to gain more organic followers? Entice people to dine with you? Inform diners about an upcoming event? Base your content around your goals.

Make sure that the images you share are clear, appealing, and high-quality. You may even want to consider hiring a professional food photographer to capture some awesome shots (that can also be used on your website).

Think about the captions you use. Don’t be stiff and unwelcoming. Social media is about interaction. Create a voice for your restaurant, engage with your followers, and add a sense of levity. People will notice.

If you’re in a bind when coming up with creative content for social media, we can help. We created a holiday calendar that keeps you aware of upcoming food holidays so you can plan social posts, discounts, and more. To learn more about this new tool, check this page out.

To learn more about social strategies, check out this blog.

4. Missing Essential Business Information Online

Don’t leave your potential customers feeling like FBI agents on the hunt for your phone number, address, or restaurant menu. The essential information they want to know should be easy to find whether they’re performing a Google search, reading reviews on TripAdvisor, or poking around your website.

With the use of smartphones, voice-enabled devices, and other technology, people are more impatient now than ever before. Avoid disappointment by giving them that content they are searching for on the platforms they’re searching on. And of course, make sure the information you’re giving them is accurate.

Claiming your business on these different search, review, and travel sites is a good idea as well. It helps ensure you’re in control of your online identity and allows you to interact with customers online. We’ve written some blogs about how to claim your business on Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, so check those out if you’re interested.

When owning your own restaurant, worrying about your online presence can seem like a time-consuming hassle. But, it doesn’t need to be. There are other companies and people out there who are ready, willing, and able to do the work for you. And SinglePlatform just happens to be one of those companies.

We’re dedicated to getting your accurate menu and business information in all the relevant places people are searching, like on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and many others. Why? Because if people have never heard of your restaurant before, chances are they’re not going to head to your (beautifully branded) website. They’re going to use search engines and other sites to find the information they’re craving. And you should be present in all those places so they can find you.

Interested in learning more about online menu management? Just get in touch, give us the information, and we’ll make it happen.

5. Not Engaging With Your Customers

No one likes being ignored. And the last people you want to give the cold shoulder to are your loyal customers and potential new guests. Today, the interaction between your staff and restaurant diners extends beyond the dinner table. Keep the conversation going both before and after the meal. You have plenty of chances to make an impact by listening to feedback and responding accordingly.

Social Media

There are plenty of outlets to engage with guests outside of the restaurant. When you receive a comment on social media, respond. Whether it’s positive or negative, it’s important to address concern and praise. Making the interaction conversational shows that you care about your customer base and want to keep the conversation going. Create a brand voice that makes a distinct impact.

Wendy’s does a great job of being quick, witty, and humorous in their social responses. Check out the back and forth banter that ensues when a customer asks for some Wendy’s knowledge:

Creating a recognizable social presence has worked for Wendy’s; they’ve amassed over 2 million followers on Twitter alone. They’re notorious for creating online “beef” with other fast food joints and pushing the envelope through entertaining dialogue.

Think outside the box when it comes to your social strategy, act more human than robot, and never let a comment or concern go unnoticed.

Online Reviews

Of course, you can’t forget about online reviews. According to BrightLocal research, 85% of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that responds to reviews. Reviews serve the modern day word-of-mouth, and traditionally word-of-mouth has been a great source of business for restaurants. Whether the review is singing your praises or highlighting your faults, have a plan to respond. We wrote blogs on how to respond to each type. For advice on responding to positive reviews, head here. For how to handle negative reviews, check this blog out.

Looking for an easier way to manage your online reviews that exist on different online platforms? Our Review Monitoring tool makes it easier for you to see the entire picture of your online reputation so you can take action.

In Closing

Marketing your restaurant can seem like a big, scary feat. But, it doesn’t have to be. After learning about these five common restaurant marketing mistakes, take a step back and look at your own restaurant marketing strategies. Are you making any of these errors? If so, take small strides to make big improvements. You’re sure to see results by putting in some tangible effort.

You don’t have to be the most skilled marketer to reap the benefits of a solid marketing plan, you just need to take into consideration your goals and then execute on them. Make sure to measure the success of your changes and continue to adapt and improve from there.

For more marketing advice and restaurant tips, check out some of our other blog posts and sign up for our email newsletter. Good luck!