I have recently found myself drawn into the fascinating world of the casual dining and Quick-Serve-Restaurant (QSR) sectors – A world characterised by vibrant and agile brands who are seemingly booming despite the continued signals of a slowdown in the restaurant trade. A world that is tearing up the rule book and going rogue – where entrepreneurs are letting their creativity fly. Unleashing flavours from across the globe, and bringing them to your doorstep, figuratively and literally.
The more I researched the more I encountered a strange paradox. More and more brands seem to be appearing, presenting an incredibly diverse and increasing range of cuisines. Yet the industry statistics paint a picture of closures and a market that has reached saturation and fierce competition.
According to AlixPartners August Reports; in the 12 months to June 2019, the number of premises in Britain’s restaurant sector has dropped by 924 compared to the previous 12 months, a 3.4% drop which works out to about 18 closures per week.
However, the rate of closures of pubs and bars was slightly lower than the market average at 2%. The majority of these closures have been single-unit operators, but multi-unit operators have weathered this far better. Their site numbers having only dropped by 1.2%.
So what is it that sets those who are riding the crest of the wave from those who succumb to the perils? Speaking to a number of successful small chain operators there are a few key strategies that they seem to all employ in one way or another.
Harness agility – being able to pick up opportunities is one thing, delivering them is another. With even a few additional locations that ability to identify, focus and coordinate these activities diminishes greatly.
Keep abreast of changing trends – The successful chains are able to step back from the day to day challenges in order to take stock of trends and incorporate them into their operational activities.
Focus on consistent quality – With the permeation of social media into the very fabric of daily lives it is now more important than ever to deliver a consistent standard – every time. Long gone are the days were the worst-case impact of a bad experience would ripple out via word of mouth to a select few people.
Engage with customers – As mentioned above, love it or loathe it social media is an intrinsic part of daily life. Successful brands not only engage with customers via social platforms, they do it quickly. A swift response will not only help quell the impact of any undesirable posts, it also allows you to capitalise on any positive praise and recommendations. Experts state despite getting a personal recommendation from friend or family member, 3 out of 5 people will avoid visiting a bar or restaurant off the back of negative online reviews. (review trackers)
Broad understanding of business performance – Invariably as chains grow keeping abreast of vital business information becomes increasingly harder. Multiple systems, across multiple sites, operated by multiple people means that knowing what and where to focus becomes almost impossible – to the point where many owners simply result to snatching headline data and making key strategic decisions based on experience or gut feel – this may work out most of the time but as with any gamble the more often you roll the greater the risk becomes. By ensuring those major decisions are backed up with accurate information will exponentially minimise risk exposure inherent in key decision making.