4 Things You Can Learn From a Restaurant ConsultantAn outside expert can help you see your restaurant — and its full potential — with fresh eyes.
As a restaurant owner, you’re faced with countless daily demands. You’re managing a staff, ordering inventory and keeping a close eye on your budget, all while trying to give every guest tasty food and an unforgettable experience. It’s a tough job.
When you have to focus so much on these moving pieces it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s where restaurant consultants come in. (They can also be invaluable when starting a restaurant.) These experts will help you reach the full potential of your restaurant throughout every stage of the business.
Here are four things, among others, a restaurant consultant can help you do.
Assess your costs and revenue needs
The costs of food, labor and real estate keep the profit margins of restaurants tight, said Barret Beyer, a “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant chef who now consults for restaurants on the East Coast. He said restaurants lose profits if they’re not paying attention to the value of their tables.
“Every square foot in your place is worth a certain amount of dollars,” he said. “If it’s Friday night and you are at a table with your buddies and there are people waiting to sit down, guess what, you are losing more money than you can imagine.”
According to Beyer, a restaurant consultant will help you assess the costs of food, labor and overhead to determine how much revenue you need to bring in on a given night. Then they’ll show you strategies for generating the necessary amount from diners and turn tables over efficiently without rushing customers.
Optimize limited kitchen space
The value of space extends beyond the dining room into the kitchen, said Beyer. One of the biggest problems restaurant owners face, he said, is optimizing their kitchens, where a hot, crowded atmosphere can cause inefficiencies in food preparation.
“Consultants structure your kitchen to operate at a certain level of efficiency, so each dish can reach the table within the appropriate amount of time,” he said. “The amount of kitchen space you have will determine what kind of menu you can serve.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing a kitchen, said Beyer. Consultants will develop custom kitchen solutions that zero in on the equipment you need to execute your menu, give staff enough room to work safely and get the dishes to the table quickly.
“You have to set it up so everything flows intuitively and also meets health department requirements,” he added.
Maintain quality service during an expansion
Once you’ve got your first restaurant running smoothly, it’s tempting to explore expansion opportunities. A consultant can help you maintain high standards of service during periods of growth, said Ori Geshury, director of education at consultancy Aqua Vitae Institute.
“We’ve found that most of our clients want to do something a little bit special in each of their restaurants. However, they’re worried that the quality just won’t be there when they’re not micromanaging everything,” he said.
Making a great first impression with a new location will require a staff that understands hospitality. Geshury said consultants can help you develop a rigorous training program that gets staff up to speed quickly.
“A consultant can help staff understand the minimum required level of service and menu knowledge before they start work so that the restaurant can succeed. This can drastically decrease training times and help companies operate successfully in an industry with one of the highest turnover rates of all.”
See the restaurant through customers’ eyes
Even if you have the best food in town, other aspects of your restaurant might turning off customers. A consultant can help you experience your restaurant as customers do, said Graham
Gill, president of customer experience agency Mind the Gap, which has offices in Denver and Seattle.
“Owners tend to know food, recipes and what they want for their customers. However, in my experience, most don’t know how all the small things contribute to the overall customer experience,” he said.
Gill said consultants will expose how various touch points, from the table setting and the menu design to the bathrooms and decor, impact the experience. Even the smallest detail can change how diners feel about the restaurant.
“I was just working with a restaurant and helped them see how their laminated menus were counterproductive to the image they wanted to portray. Restaurant owners need to be as fanatical about all of those experiences as they are about the food.”
The biggest benefit consultants bring to the table, according to Gill, is their ability to blend the values of your business and the desires of customers into a flawless experience.
“A quality consultant should live in the middle ground, like a mediator, between the outside perspective and the owner’s passion.”