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How to Run a Successful Restaurant

How to Run a Successful Restaurant

What makes one restaurant consistently busy while the competition struggles to fill the dining room? Tracking profits and losses is key to staying in business, but many of the most important aspects of running a restaurant successfully are intangible and can’t be classified as a line item on a spreadsheet. 

In this article, we’ll cover the key aspects that any successful restaurant owner should be mindful of when running their business, including:

7 ways to future-proof your restaurant

This guide will walk you through the game-changing restaurant tactics that’ll add flexibility to your business—a key to thriving in the new world of hospitality.


Recognize the importance of your staff

If you want to run a successful restaurant, your staff will be the number one factor in keeping guests coming back. The kitchen staff is the backbone of a restaurant, while your front of house crew is the public face and persona. While guest experience is number one in the hospitality business, it cannot exist without a happy, motivated and devoted staff.

In order to hire and retain the best possible staff for your restaurant, you should: 

  • Create a hiring method that aligns with your personal values and hire your staff based on those key traits.
  • Show your staff that you appreciate them through appropriate pay raises, outings, acknowledgments and more.
  • Identify stressors in the workplace and work to eliminate them. 
  • Measure tenure and provide a path for growth within the company.
  • Conduct periodic check-ins or send out staff surveys to keep your finger on the pulse of staff satisfaction.

A male chef in a white chef's coat and gray apron stands in a restaurant kitchen spooning something out of a small white container.


Offer a seamless guest experience

The guest experience must be seamless and immersive from beginning to end. Parking, seating, service, food and drink quality, the payment process, their departure and all interactions with staff and management in between must be on point. The goal is to exceed expectations in each individual step. When a restaurant fails to meet expectations, even in one category, it can potentially ruin a guest’s entire experience and receive a negative review. 

And because no night of service is without its flaws, it’s not always about what happens, but how we handle it. If a mistake is made, acknowledge and fix it. Our job is to make sure there’s a happy ending to every story, even if that means that the guest felt like management heard and responded appropriately to a complaint. 

Javier Meneses, of Waterfront Bar and Grill, San Diego’s oldest tavern that’s been nicknamed “San Diego’s friendliest bar,” explains that they received that title by “touching tables, having the staff say ‘hello’ to everyone who walks in through the door, saying ‘bye’ when they leave, and inviting guests to come back. Getting their names and using them. Making the guests feel genuinely welcome and not like a transaction.” 


Create a buzz online and in-house

So much of this business is driven by guests coming to see who else they know there, to be seen by others who are there or to check in on social media. As a restaurant operator, your job is to fan this flame. Seat your restaurant so it always appears full by first opening your sections visible to walk-by traffic during slower times, and seating guests outdoors when weather permits. Encourage your patrons to check in on social media and post pictures of their experiences. 


Highlight your restaurant’s unique qualities

It always helps to have something special to you that gives people something to talk about and a reason to come back. With social media, it is increasingly important to be photogenic with fun, creative drinks and or dishes. Whatever it is, own it, merchandise it, make it yours and get people talking about it.

A bar top displaying a variety of colorful cocktails.


Understand your brand

To run a successful restaurant, you should know your restaurant’s brand like the back of your hand. Don’t try to be all things to all people. If there are already five versions of your concept in your market, people won’t be eager to try another. They want something unique. 

Your passion and drive are integral to your eventual success, and they come from doing what you love and believing in your mission. Create something that represents what you enjoy and what you know. Create something that you’re excited to get out of bed for, something that will help strengthen your passion and spread it to others.


Be proactive about accounting

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” This goes for physical items as well as accounting procedures and standard operating procedures. Clearly communicate the expectations, follow through, be organized, label everything, set pars, forecast your sales and set goals. This starts with really knowing your business, getting your hands dirty and having your finger on the pulse of your business. Set up systems for everything and continually enforce them. 

At Our Place in Burleson, Texas, Benji Arslanovski explains how he leads his team: “I am firm on how I want things from my staff but I’m fair. I never ask my staff to do something I wouldn’t do; I lead by example.” This all starts from really knowing your business, diving into the details of your profit and loss statements, understanding opportunities for improvement, knowing what physical changes will garner the desired results, rolling it out and then monitoring it until it sticks.  

Hands typing on a computer. In the top corner of the image is an illustration showing a meeting notification.


Create a strong social media presence

Your prospective guests are most likely looking you up on social media before they dine and want to see your food, your sourcing, a packed house of other happy guests and behind-the-scenes action. Think about how to make every inch of your restaurant Instagrammable, whether it’s a piece of decor or a place setting. If it doesn’t catch the eye, think about what tweaks would make it more interesting. You can manage the accounts yourself or enlist a savvy staff member to take control of posting of authentic pictures and videos. 


Keep it consistent

Maintaining guest loyalty and increasing the frequency of visits is a key step in maximizing your sales. In order to develop those long-term frequent regulars, and even your more infrequent guests, your restaurant needs to be consistent with the service, atmosphere and, most importantly, the food. 

It’s also important to be consistent with your staff when it comes to training, rules, consequences and rewards. Consistency defines and manages expectations. It tells both guests and the staff that you can trust us, that we’re not going to surprise you or pull the rug from beneath you. 


Serve the best food in town

This goes without saying, but your food should be the highest quality possible for your restaurant type and price point. Whatever kind of food you serve, whether it’s served on fine china or a compostable takeout container, should be able to blow your competitors out of the water.

An overhead shot of someone dipping an artichoke leaf into a dip. The place setting is of a nice restaurant with a white marble table, white and gold plates, and wine glasses.


Don’t rely too much on your location

Yes, the three most important factors when choosing your property are location, location, location. But just as a great location can’t guarantee success, a tough location doesn’t bar you from it. Matt Corona of Boneheads Wing Bar in Rhode Island explains, “My first location is/was in a very challenged area. Nothing around it that was worth driving to. But we went into it with the intent to become a destination. We did that with our (great) food and commitment to service. We have now solidified ourselves as such. We stay busy and people continue to line up and wait to eat here.”

Just as Matt didn’t let a bad location deter him, don’t let a great location make you feel too confident. Just because your restaurant is in a walkable area, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and watch the tables fill up without utilizing marketing or social media to get the word out.

Running a restaurant will never get easier, but it will get smarter. The right restaurant POS system can help you streamline some of the tasks we’ve covered here so that you can focus on what’s really important—your staff, your guests and your food. Watch a demo today to find out how Lightspeed can help.

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More of this topic: Management & Operations