Tips for Taking Over an Established Restaurant
It.s hard not to hear the horror stories involved in restaurant takeovers if you've been in this business for awhile. Sadly, they've grown in number over the last several years, as the economic climate makes it more difficult for the independent to survive. A few I've heard in recent years have been scary:
- The doors are locked when employees show up for work on a random weekday morning.
- A server is called over by a stranger while taking an order to say that she is being let go.
- A large party shows up for a reservation they made months in the past, only to learn the new owners have never heard of them.
- Gift certificates valued at several hundreds of dollars are invalid at the time of payment, much to the certificate-holding guest.s surprise.
- Employees show up for a meeting only to find that it is a mass-firing.
Unfortunately, not all restaurant owners enter the business because of their people skills. But handling transitions is difficult for most of us, whether they.re sugar-coated or not. There are going to be changes when taking over an established restaurant, and personnel almost always gets replaced.
This can be a transient business. That.s part of the industry we've entered. Taking over a new restaurant can be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. But there can be value in the resources of a dying business, and it.s worth it for new owners to take moment to look around before re-inventing the wheel.
Scour the Restaurant for Resources
Help is too difficult to come by sometimes to ignore resources when they.re in front of you. You never know where a new idea might come from. Learn from their business model and find out where they went wrong. Even guests get deterred by business trying the same things that the previous business tried.
Failed businesses usually have figured a few things out to have made it this far. Examine the playing field by.
- Asking customers what they liked about the old business.
- Getting to know staff leaders to see if they can help you.
- Checking revenue to for patterns and trends.
- Analyzing marketing strategies.
- Learning from their mistakes.
Welcome Existing Clientele
If a restaurant has a client base, be sure not to alienate them by neglecting their needs. This includes honoring reservations, coupons and gift cards that they may have. It also means making the same concessions they have enjoyed in the past. For example, whipping up a meal that was on a previous menu.when possible.can earn a new loyal customer.
Guests of the failed restaurant aren.t blind. They must recognize that there.s room for improvement. Maybe they saw the writing on the wall before the restaurant closed its doors. Assume that they.re open-minded about your new business and work to exceed their expectations.
If Nothing Else, Shut it Down For a Few Months
When a restaurant has clearly failed, or when you are changing the entire concept of the business, it.s a good idea to shut the doors for 4-6 months and keep the lights off. The memory of the failed business has to be dissociated from your new restaurant.sort of like getting a bad taste out of your mouth. This isn.t always possible, as sometimes the mortgage or rent payment forces your hand.
Smell the Air Before Plowing Ahead
The nature of opening your doors is to forge ahead, creating your vision of success one day at a time. But when taking over a restaurant, it.s worth it to survey the scene for a moment and think about the existing resources. You never know what you might find that can help build the next winner.