Sales declines as a symptom
RestaurantOwner is a website and magazine focused on supporting restaurant owners in developing successful businesses. They have a weekly tip e-letter and this week's is particularly good, and relevant to retail businesses more generally.
Why Your Restaurant Does NOT Have a Sales Problem
Low sales is always a symptom, never, ever the problem.
The difference between labeling a condition like low or declining sales a problem versus a symptom is a key and very critical distinction.
When sales are viewed as THE problem, operators often assume the solution is what? More marketing.
While marketing is certainly an important part of generating sales, a change in marketing is never the solution to building guest loyalty, repeat business and positive WOM.
If your sales are too low or have been in decline, sure, a different marketing approach might help, but it's likely the situation has more to do with what you're doing or not doing in your restaurant every day and how your food, service, atmosphere, i.e. guest experience is perceived by your guests.
The law of cause and effect says that if your sales are too low something is causing it. So before taking any action, the best place to start is to first step back and objectively look at what's going on in your restaurant and in your local market.
Consider the following:
Sitting down to contemplate and, if necessary, research questions like this will help you consider and identify factors that you may be totally missing when you assume you've got a "sales" problem.
- How's your food quality? Is it consistent? (don’t rely on your own opinion, enlist some people who will tell you the TRUTH)
- Is your service staff friendly and responsive?
- Are you giving your customers what they want in terms of quality, choice, price, cleanliness, service, atmosphere? How do you know?
- How does your restaurant's value proposition and experience proposition compare to what your customers can get from your local competitors?
- What are you customers saying about you? Check comment cards, Yelp and other review websites.
Running a successful business is an intellectual endeavor, not an emotional one. If your sales stink, don't immediately assume more or different marketing will fix it. It may make things worse.
Get alone and quiet and think objectively about what may be going on in your restaurant that may be keeping customers away or causing them to not return as often.
Low or declining sales is always a symptom, so focus on identifying the real problem(s). Finding and addressing the real problem(s) is the only way to come up with effective and lasting solutions.