Restaurant finance — like everything else in the restaurant biz — is often broken down into two core focus areas: the front of house (FOH) and the back of house (BOH). Maintaining the highest profitability for your restaurant means carefully monitoring and manipulating financial aspects in both of these segments. In the BOH you’re typically focusing on waste, payroll, and pricing management. The front of house, however, has quite different needs for increasing profitability.
The great plague of restaurant profitability is over-comping. If your restaurant is hemorrhaging money as a result of too many comped items, it’s likely a sign of an inexperienced or lazy front of house team. Your FOH management staff, in particular, should be well equipped to resolve issues and dissatisfaction without the use of comping.
While this responsibility falls on the shoulders of the management, it all begins with the waitstaff. A solid waitstaff does not error in placing orders to the kitchen or bar. When issues do arise — and you need a way to make a customer happy — consider offering a couple complimentary glasses of low-cost prosecco. Check on all guests when they receive their meals to ensure they are cooked properly. This way, if there is an issue, the kitchen can fix it quickly without the need to comp it.
It’s remarkable how many servers do not know basic salesmanship techniques like upselling and suggestive selling. And it’s unfortunate how many restaurant managers complain about low sales without recognizing and training salesmanship in their staff. It’s no coincidence that it’s often the same servers and bartenders who have the highest sales. When hiring, focus your scouting on staff that can sell, and check with past restaurants for references of this.
Keep People Coming Back
Salesmanship without hospitality isn’t worth much. See, you need to make people feel welcome and at home in your restaurant to keep them coming back. Even if you don’t have the best food or prices, the right atmosphere can be your ticket to success. Most restaurants have a busy season and a slow season, and a loyal crew of local regulars is your ticket to surviving the luls in business.
Use Less Products
Every item you use has an associated cost. Consider reducing everything that you use. Straws and condiments can be by request, and consider doing away with table linens or even laundering them in house. Get staff members involved, and offer rewards to those who don’t break glasses or waste product.
Reconsider Your Hours
Any time that you are open without butts in seats, you are losing money to operational costs. If you never have any customers between the lunch and dinner rush, then close for a few hours. If you don’t serve many lunch customers then don’t open for lunch. After the dinner rush, if you don’t have any customers for more than an hour, then consider closing early. Your FOH management team should be well trained to make calls about when to be open and when to close.