Everything you need to know to run a successful restaurant

New to the restaurant business and want to find out how to manage finances, staff, customers or inventory, for instance? See everything you need to know about running a restaurant here.

How do you manage a restaurant?

Running a restaurant entails the everyday management of:

  1. Finances and margins 
  2. Menus
  3. Staff
  4. Stocks, deliveries and supplier relations
  5. Staff shift rotas
  6. Bookings
  7. Customers.

Control your restaurant finances and margins

Managing cash flow with a deft hand is key to the sustainability of a restaurant business. 

To ensure good financial management, start by rigorously maintaining a cash flow statement showing both receipts (specifying sales channel and payment means) and disbursements (payroll, rent, raw materials, taxes, etc.).

Being aware of cash in and cash out means you can keep an eye on your cash flow, anticipate any potential financial pitfalls and put in place solutions to improve your breakeven point.Pour assurer la pérennité de son restaurant, la trésorerie doit être gérée d’une main de maître. 

Managing restaurant finances and margins also involves:

  • Proper budgeting of the expenses and resources needed to maintain operations
  • Appropriate selling prices
  • Good inventory management
  • Calculating ratios (food cost percentage, payroll percentage, etc.)
  • Daily monitoring of the number of covers, cost price per dish, gross margin, etc.

As you can see, mastering some basic accounting skills is critical for optimising the financial management of your business. 

To make this complex task – essential to the proper management of a restaurant – that little bit easier, accounting software can be an invaluable ally. These solutions provide a rapid overview of cash flow, gross margin, ratios and other key indicators. Do not hesitate to also hire an accountant, who can take charge of managing your restaurant’s finances.

Design an attractive menu for your restaurant

As the calling card of your restaurant, your menu must be attractive – both in form (elegant design, modern typography, simple layout, etc. ) and in content (high quality dishes, transparency of product origin, etc.). 

When designing a menu, simplicity is key. Make sure your menu is short – a menu that offers too much choice is more costly, harder to manage and more taxing for customers to read. 

Your menu prices should be fair and based on factors such as the cost of raw materials, the type of cuisine, competitors’ prices, and so on. 

Do not be afraid to modify or update your menu or remove dishes that are not selling. 

Manage staff and organise shift rotas

Managing teams and organising shift rotas is also part of running a restaurant.

Personnel management entails the following, in particular : 

  • Hiring staff (the restaurant sector suffers from high turnover – it is important to have en effective recruitment method in place)
  • Delegating duties and organising regular reviews
  • Organising training and developing the skills of your teams
  • Fostering a positive working atmosphere in a safe and caring environment
  • Favouring team wellbeing, motivation and commitment (valuing and thanking staff, fostering team spirit, minimising sources of stress, etc.)
  • Appraising employees and giving constructive feedback. 

To ensure the smooth running of a restaurant, a restaurant manager should lead and motivate staff in a professional, caring and energetic way. 

It is also down to the restaurant manager to meticulously organise staff rotas. You should start by listing all the tasks that need doing on a daily basis (cleaning, maintenance, dish prep, decorating, managing bookings, taking orders, serving, cashing up, etc.). Depending on how long each task takes, determine your staffing requirements and draw up a workable, realistic rota (weekly, fortnightly or monthly). 

Properly manage inventory and deliveries

Good stock management is fundamental to the profitability of a business. 

To streamline stocks and avoid food wastage, create detailed recipe cards for each dish, so that kitchen staff can respect the right weight and measurements and not exceed the planned quantities. In addition, the menu should not be too long, to avoid leftovers. 

Another key step is to do a regular inventory of stocks to check the supplies needed (again, you could use dedicated management software to make this task easier). 

Provide a great customer experience and manage bookings

Providing a great customer experience is a key factor in the success of your business. To get your customers to come back, make sure you give them a moment to remember – whether it is fast, organised and impeccable service, a warm welcome, a comfortable dining area, a friendly atmosphere, great decor or – and this goes without saying – well presented, delicious dishes using only the best quality ingredients. 

Make sure you offer a personalised service: memorise the names of your regulars, make individual suggestions, offer loyalty rewards, etc.

Take customer reviews into account, even negative ones, and respond to any complaints in a tactful and sympathetic manner.

In addition, bookings must be managed efficiently. Consider using software such as the online booking module developed by Zenchef. This will save you a lot of time and stop you missing out on any booking requests.

Manage your restaurant’s marketing

Marketing is often left on the back burner by restaurant owners, who are already busy with the operational side of running a restaurant. 

However, an effective marketing strategy, right from the opening of your restaurant, is a very powerful lever for attracting new customers, retaining your current ones, reinforcing your competitive edge and establishing your reputation.

To manage your restaurant’s marketing, make use of the following channels:

Sending newsletters or flyers, publishing articles in the local press, organising events and registering your restaurant on specialised websites are some other great ways to boost your brand awareness.

Managing a restaurant: what regulations and hygiene rules do you need to know?

Managing a restaurant also means respecting a certain number of regulations and hygiene rules. These standards notably relate to:

  • Premises and equipment: separation of clean and dirty areas, cold rooms with temperature control, etc.
  • Food storage and preservation: respecting cold and hot chains, rules for freezing, etc.
  • Disabled access and safety regulations.
  • Restaurant operations: wearing a hairnet in the kitchen, wearing gloves, cleaning work surfaces and utensils at the end of each service to ensure cleanliness, etc.
  • Mandatory signage rules.
  • Obtention of licences and operating permits.
  • Respecting opening hours fixed by prefectorial order.
  • Prohibition of smoking, the broadcasting of music, noise or night disturbance, etc.

It is very important that you are fully aware of these regulations and that you respect them day in day out. Failure to comply with these obligations may result in criminal sanctions, or even the closure of your restaurant.

You can find a list of all the rules and regulations on the  service-public.fr website.

Who should you turn to for advice on running your restaurant?

If you run into trouble when managing your restaurant and this starts to threaten its survival, the help of an expert can be invaluable. 

 A restaurant consultant can conduct a thorough audit of your business: Is your menu right? Is the service up to par? Are you complying with regulations? Are you correctly managing inventory?

This specialist will be able to pinpoint possible flaws, highlight areas for improvement and activate the right levers to improve the profitability of your business.

If you want to find out more, and see how you can better manage your restaurant, see our article "8 essential digital solutions for streamlining your restaurant business"

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