Friday, May 30, 2014

Small restaurants

     Free daily tips, information and advice for people in small business
     from someone who has been there, done that in several small operations.

     Small restaurants and cafes can go through difficult times. They are among the first businesses to feel the pinch of bad economic times.

     They can become neighborhood gathering places and this can be the bedrock on which these operations grow and expand. People return again and again because they know what to expect. Customers usually settle on a few items from the menu and they re-order frequently these favorites. 

     Kick-starting small restaurants and cafes to the next level takes some careful planning. You don't want to mess with what success there you have, but you need more business.

     Example: Bob decided to add music. He made contact with a local Irish group and found that several members played traditional Irish musical instruments--they even got together occasionally to practice. A place to practice was a problem for the group. Bob offered them exposure at his modest restaurant on Sunday afternoons--no payment was involved. Soon, the word spread and a full house of customers arrived--not only on Sunday afternoons, but on other days as well. 

     To expand your customer base, think outside the box. Sometimes, by solving someone else's problem, you solve your own. 

     Example: Jackie took an approach that involved her love of different cuisines. Her cafe sat less than 50 people. She was busy at breakfast and lunch, but there was little dinner traffic. She decided to add an International Night on Thursdays, thinking that it would attract more attention. The first week she offered a Jamaican Holiday meal, followed the second week with Casablanca Night. By the third week, every seat in the house was filled with diners clamoring for more of the Tex-Mex Specials. 

     Every idea you try might not work. And what works for one business might not work in another. But you never give up.

     Example: Frank wanted to expand his restaurant business to become the "go-to" place for parties and gatherings. He began putting out the word--to organizations, companies, and groups. Everyone, it seemed, needed a space for small gatherings. And Frank could serve up food and drink from the restaurant side. He redid the decor, and his restaurant business became the caterer for the events that took place. As word spread, people wanted to hold other events at Frank's--private parties, birthdays, retirements, reunions and the like. He's thinking of franchising the concept, and he has already expanded with a second location.

     You never know where an idea for change will lead you. But you stay on top of your game by testing every idea that holds promise. 

     Questions? I retired when I turned 75 and keep active with writing and coaching. You can email me at with your questions--put BLOG in the subject line so I don't delete. Quick answers from my 40+ years experience founding and growing small businesses. Your privacy is always respected.

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