By Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder, Stem + Glory.
Opening a restaurant can be an exciting business – but it can also be a risky one. According to The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/19/number-of-uk-restaurants-going-bust-up-by-a-fifth-in-2017) the number of restaurants closing is up by 20% in 2017.
However, while the chains are suffering, the independents are on the rise.
Having opened two successful, award winning and profitable restaurants, what have I learned along the way?
Here are my top 10 tips for success and survival.
- Passion. For me everything starts here. My current business, Stem + Glory, is a vegan restaurant brand, coming from my own 35year personal story with plant-based cuisine. So, first rule – always follow your passion. That way it will be a love affair.
- Niche. With Stem + Glory. I had spent years trying to find a decent vegan restaurant; so it was clear there was a huge gap in the market. As the movement grew the opportunity also arose to test this out. But it was still the passion to share plant-based eating with the rest of the world that compelled me to take my ideas to trial; I don’t believe a gap in the market is sufficient on its own.
- USP. Every business must have one. With Stem + Glory it is ‘delicious’. Again, based on my experience trying to find decent vegan food, I knew that what was available was all too often rather bland and boring. By providing exciting and delicious plant-based foods we knew we would very likely be on to a winner!
- Outstanding customer service. In hospitality this is essential. Making other people feel good is pretty much the answer to everything. One kind word can change an entire day. Recruit on the basis of competence, confidence and kind disposition; the rest you can train. Your team are vitally important to you, nurture and care for them and they will care for your customers.
- Location. Our first location is very unusual and perhaps it was its obtuseness that somehow worked in its favour! That said, believe that more important than location is having a mechanism to drive people to your location. It’s not enough to have a good location and wait for people to pitch up at your door. Always best to be a destination.
- Themed nights / special events. This is hugely successful for us. Look at the calendar and create specials and special menus around events. For example, Valentines, Mother’s Day, Burns night, Cinco de Mayo etc. A themed special event menu with two courses for xxx or three courses for xxx is tried and tested and works. You can run elements of it for a few days around an event to maximise its power. Remember to market your event outside of your restaurant though – don’t just put it on and not tell people! Our special fine dining events have also proved very popular at Stem + Glory and for those we literally run a special menu for one night only and presell all the tickets in advance. It’s been a winning combination.
- Photography. Spend money on this and get great images of your dishes. We are hugely image focused; you have to be able to entice people on social media with great images. Images of our food drive our Facebook campaigns and our recent successful crowdfunding campaign.
- Specials. Having specials on gives you something to market on social media. We have literally filled our restaurant with a special dish. It also gives your chefs the chance to be creative, which is what they love most.
- Opening hours. Analyse your sales per hour and costs to open. Every location will have its own rhythm and flow. Experiment with opening hours – don’t just open at 8am because you think someone might come in for coffee! Look at your peak times. Our restaurant opens at 12midday for lunch and 5.30pm for dinner. Our café opens 10-5 winter and 9-6 summer. In London we will look at early-late opening and see how it works.
- Marketing. Market the restaurant – and then market it some more. There is a direct relationship between marketing and success. At Stem + Glory we are fascinated by marketing, and we literally do not stop. With the new GDPR rules this year, there will be a need for ever smarter marketing. If you can embrace new ways of marketing and new tools, you’ll be on to a winner.
I believe that being successful is as much about you as it is your product. If the going ever does get tough, approach things with curiosity to find solutions. Be authentic and stay true to your own vision and passion and let this passion infect your team. Be persistent, be ambitious, be bold, and above all, be kind.
Stem + Glory has two restaurant locations in Cambridge and will be opening a third location in London later his year. www.stemandglory.uk
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory; a hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurant, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredient 100% made on site. Stem + Glory offers all day casual fine dining, fast breakfast, brunch and lunch, juices, smoothies and great coffee. All available to eat in or take away. Stem + Glory also offers mouth-watering and hugely popular tasting menu evenings and special event menus. The restaurants have an extensive vegan bar, offering the best craft beers and fine wines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and smart drinks. www.stemandglory.uk
Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton