The restaurant business is a hard one to cut your teeth in. With countless choices for places to eat, it’s easy to see how most restaurants fail within the first three years. Some restauranteurs serve up delicious, unique dishes only to still have to close their doors due to simple lack of interest once the luster of being the “hot new joint” in town eventually wears off.
Restaurant start-up costs vary significantly and can exceed $300,000. We feel that if you’re looking to put that kind of financial backing towards your dream, then it’s wise to invest in the following four items, at a minimum, to promote the longevity of your business:
1. A Logo
Every business needs a logo, duh, yes, we’ve heard it a million times. The internet is brimming with thousands of pre-made logos ready to be purchased, on the cheap, for your fledgling company. The logo, however, must be more than a mark that people expect. A great logo will reflect the true identity of your business in the same ways great ingredients will reflect the quality of the dishes you serve. Designing a logo is a lot like developing a great meal. It requires research, experimentation and years of experience– not simply picking up a frozen dinner at the grocery store to re-sell as your own product.
2. A Responsive Website
You might have heard that mobile web browsing has overtaken its desktop counterpart as the way most people consume the internet. If you currently have a website, a quick checkin with Google Analytics will tell you the exact percentage of users who view your site with what type of device (if you don’t already have Google Analytics, you can find out how to install it for free here). Statistics and trends aside, consider the following scenario:
You’re out and about with your significant other when you find yourselves in need of dinner. You suggest a restaurant, but your better-half is a vegetarian and concerned about potential lack of options, so you decide to check out the menu of the place you were considering before making a commitment. The website you go to is not mobile-responsive and on top of that, forces you to download a PDF of the menu. This “download menu” button isn’t clearly visible and once you finally find it, it takes forever to download because the PDF hasn’t been web-optimized.
At this point you’ve probably lost a potential customer and irritated them by forcing them to spend their limited cellular data plan downloading your clunky menu. A lean, easy to navigate, responsive website will do wonders for any business– particularly ones like restaurants that people often decide to visit on a whim.
Aside from attractive design, there are many factors to consider with signage. Is your business’s sign visible at the speed people pass it? Obviously foot traffic in a downtown area will be able to see more detail in a sign than someone driving past on a main road. If you’re open late into the night, does your sign light up and is it legible when lit? Does your sign clearly mark your business or could it be confused with another place in town? Are there trees or bushes that might impede one’s view of your sign? Simply “picking out” a sign at your local sign shop and throwing your logo on it isn’t enough, especially if you’re paying for the prime real estate location where many potential customers will be driving/walking past your sign daily.
4. Appropriate Menus
Menu design is something non-chain restaurants seldom get right. Your menu must be legible but like your logo, it ought to also be reflective of your product. From an aesthetic perspective, it’s hard to stomach ordering a $30+ entrée off a page written entirely in Comic Sans. As the one printed artifact that everyone who eats at your restaurant will interact with, it’s critical that the menu be not only legible but attractive and a pleasure to order from. Keep in mind that photos of your menu eventually find their way to review sites like Yelp. Give your camera-phone wielding patrons a nice photo op and it’s liable to pay dividends in free publicity.
Status Forward is hungry to help local restaurants and bars succeed. If you’d like to discuss your future or current restaurant, we’d love to do lunch.