If there is one thing in this great, wide world that unites everyone regardless of our many differences, it’s food. Even with the many wide and varied cuisines that are present throughout the world, from American food to Korean kimchi, there is truly something for everyone. Food is a powerful uniter because it not only tastes great and nourishes us, but allows us to express our cultures in a physical way. If you talk to a chef, they will more often than not describe it as an “art form” like painting or sculpting, but the effect ends up in your stomach and delighted by your tongue.
If you have any doubt that people don’t love to eat (especially when others are preparing their food), think again: there are approximately 661,000 restaurants in the United States alone and this number shows no signs of slowing. Even the definition of “restaurant” has changed, with food trucks and pop up stands being even more popular than traditional sit-down restaurants in some cases. The chance to offer truly odd and different cuisines at differing price points is easier than ever for the aspiring foodie entrepreneur.
Owning a restaurant can be a fickle business, as there are all sorts of health regulations and changing conditions that can affect profitability on a daily perspective as well as long term. But if you’re willing to put in the work required to cook people’s gourmet dishes, then investing in restaurant improvements should be a piece of cake for you. Not literally as a piece of cake, as that has sweeter ingredients, but a similar type of effort and concentration that results in a well-run establishment. If you’re willing to invest in emerging technology to holistically merge your restaurant with the engineering powers that be, then you may emerge the victor even in a remarkably competitive environment.
In this article, we’ll start with basic restaurant improvements that anyone can use, regardless of how many square feet their restaurant is, what cuisine you cook, or where you’re located. We’ll then move onto more technology-oriented improvements for making your restaurant smarter and updated for the digital era. Hopefully, you find the tips listed helpful and can apply them toward making even better dishes than before.
Practical Restaurant Improvements That Apply to Everyone
You don’t have to own a waterfront restaurant on the beach in order to have a space that looks good or make practical improvements (though the gorgeous view certainly helps). The simple fact is that basic maintenance is more than half the battle of keeping your restaurant in good working order when going about the business of restaurant improvements. Investing in cleaning supplies, scheduling regular maintenance, and keeping track of when various bills are due will go a long way towards eliminating any short fuse you may have with stress. Whether you have to hire a commercial plumbing company to redo your bathrooms or an electrician to install new dining room lamps, you will be better sticking to what you know (food and business) and letting other people contract their special to you.
One of the more important things to a dining space is air conditioning and atmosphere control. People will lose their appetite quickly if a restaurant smells bad or is too hot or cold. Make sure to schedule a meeting with qualified HVAC contractors at some point in the future to go over whether your restaurant space is adequately served by your current HVAC needs and if there’s anything you can do to improve it. Sometimes these systems simply need to be cleaned, which will still require their expertise and labor.
Making sure your kitchen and dining space is up to spec is also vitally important when thinking about restaurant improvements, so you shouldn’t hesitate to inspect your cooking and prep areas for leaks or other hazardous conditions. Especially if natural gas or other flammable materials are involved. Checking for things that need to be fixed in your dining area, like worn carpets, cracked tiles, or broken furniture can be tedious, but is well worth it in the end. You want to provide the most efficient and well-crafted dining experience available to your paying customers, and so every detail counts in order to earn their dollars.
Get Online and Stay There (Except When You’re Cooking)
As you’re considering various restaurant improvements in the physical world, don’t forget or neglect that there is now a digital space that is increasingly becoming just as important as the food you serve. If your restaurant doesn’t have a website or online presence, you may want to consider contracting out to a web design company in order to get you set up with the basics: a decent website to promote your restaurant while displaying your menu, limited social media channels, and perhaps some way to directly communicate with loyal customers (email list or digital newsletter). These things may seem “advanced,” but really they are just another learning curve to put in the toolbox of your restaurant reality.
For example, if you have basic social media channels set up in which fans of your restaurant receive messages, you can make last-minute changes to the menu/specials so that people don’t arrive only to get their hopes dashed. In a similar vein, you can reward followers or inquisitive parties with discount codes or special offers that are only offered through these channels, bringing in organic new business. Your website can host videos of you talking about your restaurant or preparing your favorite dish so that customers can have a “behind the scenes” look at how their favorite establishment is run. You can also post high-quality pictures of each dish, letting customers compare and show the images to interested parties.
Don’t hesitate to monitor online reviews of your restaurant either. While it is impossible to please everyone, it’s also helpful to you to read what customers have written about their experiences at your establishment. If a waiter was rude to them or a certain dish seems to keep being prepared incorrectly, that’s worth noting and responding to. You can also reach out to customers to publicly apologize and make things right with a free meal or extra incentives, something that just simply wasn’t possible in the days before the internet. Taking advantage of these digital tools will make you a sharper and more savvy restaurant owner.
Point of Sale Goes Digital
When the term “point of sale” comes up, most people think that’s a fancy term for “cash register.” And while nothing’s wrong with cold, hard cash, it’s worth noting that many people don’t carry it anymore in lieu of a variety of different cards or digital payment options. Credit, debit, and prepaid are just three varieties of different physical payment cards that people carry now for safety and budget purposes, meaning that if you are a cash-only establishment you will be missing out on a large market of those who simply keep all their dollar bills in the bank. This is of course not to mention all the change (coins and bills) you’ll have to have on hand in order to properly keep a cash establishment running.
For those looking to make restaurant improvements in the digital era of today, it’s worth moving beyond cash simply for the security concern: cash always leaves the option open for theft, trouble, and more. Even if you’re a simple family pasta restaurant, once people know that you keep lots of cash around you could become a target for burglars, employee theft, or “accounting errors” by those who you do business with. Instead of having to constantly stop your headaches with over the counter pain relievers, cut them off at the source by limiting your cash on hand to a few hundred dollars. Your employees can always accept cash tips for themselves and keep them on their person.
Another option for taking digital payments as you look into various restaurant improvements is to sign up with a digital payment provider like PayPal, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay. There are many digital payment providers that can help with processing differing forms of payments. Some of them even include (or charge a small fee for) a brand new point of sale system that can accept cards or digital payments. Customers may even be able to pay with their cell phone, cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) or through text message if you have the right systems. It’s worth consulting a technology professional to find out what system would benefit you most while causing the least amount of hassle.
If It Ships, You’re Halfway There
Shipping logistics can be a hassle, especially if you don’t have a routine or pre-determined schedule of what’s supposed to come on time. Whether you are waiting on ingredients, supplies or simply bills in the mail, it can pay dividends in peace of mind to become organized and know when things are arriving at your restaurant or place of business.
If you haven’t already, try to schedule food deliveries (especially of exotic ingredients) for the same day(s) of the week, month, or time of year so that you can plan ahead accordingly. Sometimes things aren’t in season or have delays for whatever reason that is beyond your control. You will be made aware of that in time from the distributor, but when everything is synced and planned on a schedule it will be much easier to contribute ingredients to regular and special dishes alike. This isn’t usually considered one of the more common restaurant improvements, but it can very much make a difference.
You may be running a restaurant that is well-known enough that people actually want you to ship food to them, locally or internationally. When using a food delivery service (such as UberEats or Postmates), you’ll want to give them the food in as high-quality containers as you can muster. Don’t skimp on this, as it can mean the difference between the food having an odd odor of plastic or something else versus being pure enjoyment. If you’re shipping things internationally, you’ll want to take the time to become friendly with a shipping service around you, such as The UPS Store or FedEx Store. They will be able to advise exactly how and when you should be shipping such a delicate product to demanding customers.
Making Your Restaurant As Smart As You
Many people have heard all the reviews and compliments afforded to “smart” homes and “smart” appliances, but did you know that this same technology is also available for commercial spaces? Instead of having to have waiters or staff waste time by pulling window shades down when the sun comes into a dining room, you can install automated window shades and have that problem be forever in the past. You may also be able to install new windows in your space by calling a commercial windows service that can install tinted windows, opaque windows, or shades. Don’t be afraid to get crazy with design, but if you’re unsure about how windows will affect your restaurant you can always hire an interior decorator…or three.
Keeping your restaurant secure should be a top priority nowadays, considering that burglars and thieves also keep up with the latest technology. Even if your restaurant doesn’t keep large amounts of cash or alcohol around, it’s still worth inquiring about business alarm systems to maintain this commercial property that you’ve worked so hard for. You can have special access codes, calls to emergency services should the property be violated, and other services directed outward in case of a calamity. It is one of the smarter restaurant improvements you can make, even if there is an initial upfront investment. Your insurance rates and other liability costs might also go down, making it worthwhile for future expenses.
At the End of the Day, It’s About the Food
Hopefully you’ve gathered some practical tips about how to make restaurant improvements that future-proof your business from this article. But even if you embrace the latest cryptocurrency for payments or invest in some sort of robot waiter, remember that with a restaurant of any kind it’s all about the food. Without good ingredients and quality preparation, why would anyone pay money for a meal? You must give people a reason not to stay at home and binge Netflix while they prepare their own Italian pizza, or order superb takeout from a competitor. Customers can truly go or order from anywhere these days while having the option to have quality ingredients shipped directly to their door.
By now you’re all caught up on technology for your restaurant and focusing on a great customer experience. So even if haven’t installed the latest gadgets and currently only accept cash and credit cards, realize that if you focus on having a clean space with amazing food you’ll be good to go for the time being and into the foreseeable future. If home is truly where the heart is, then a restaurant is exactly where the stomach hangs out in-between hunger pangs. Keep cooking and improving your craft, and all your restaurant improvements will eventually come together whether you realize it or not. When the only place to go is up, you’ll have a wild ride!