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Each year, more fast casual restaurants are being introduced. With the introduction of new restaurants, and more robust competition, comes a potential reduction of sales for established restaurants.

New restaurant openings can directly affect the revenue of surrounding or similar businesses. When this occurs, it’s tempting to make a quick business decision in an attempt to increase sales. However, executing a quick band-aid solution to a long-term problem may not resolve anything, and could actually do more harm than good.

Instead, educate yourself as an owner and manager to determine the difference between what is an industry trend and what is a short-term fad. Once you’ve determined the situation, focus on these three areas to survive and thrive in the long-run:

Manage Your Marketing

When sales are slowing down, immediately go to your marketing plan. Take the money you have and only spend it where your customers are: social, email, and experiences. If you haven’t picked apart your marketing plan to adapt to your customer’s needs, you very well may be wasting money on marketing initiatives that aren’t working. Companies that grew 1-15% year over year spent an average of 16.5% of their revenue on marketing. For example, if you are spending money on radio ad spots, your customers might only be living on Instagram and Facebook for options and ideas. Instead of trying to spread a message, focus on brand awareness. Come up with a catchy slogan or catchphrase that will stay with your customers long after they have tried your food or ran into one of your ads. This will help potential customers become interested in your brand and curious to try you out. As much as there might be a slump in when a customer spends money on food, customers also reach their own slump of always buying the same thing and wanting to try something new.

Budget Your Budget

As you enter each quarter, continue to evaluate and monitor the business plan you’ve set in place. Take the time to determine whether or not your strategies are working. A general rule is that your marketing budget should be 3% to 6% of sales. Also, while it’s crucial to pay attention to all of your expenses, don’t trim on the costs that mean the most to your restaurant. If outsourcing quality ingredients is critical to your brand, plan to never compromise on that as you plan. If having the best staff on-board to ensure the best customer experience is priority #1, only hire the best and have some extra cushion money set aside to make sure they are taken care of financially throughout the year through surprise bonuses or raises. Customers will continue to demand the best service from your team, and the best way to guarantee customer satisfaction is to have a kick-butt team in place. You can learn to be more efficient when it comes to scheduling your team’s time by only scheduling them when you need them and letting them go home when the work is completed. During slow hours or slow seasons, you risk losing money by keeping staff around when customers aren’t.

 

Be a Leader

If your restaurant’s is struggling with sales, that means your restaurant’s brand is suffering. When this happens, you will need to step up as the owner, manager or operator to instill confidence in your team and to stop the issue from going out of control. You should put all of these expectations and goals in a binder or database that is accessible for employees to look over when needed. Monitor how other local restaurants are doing and investigate if there are actions or strategies they are implementing that might work for your restaurant as well. Don’t become a copycat, and don’t use the slight decrease in sales defeat your attitude. There is always a slump in the restaurant industry every year. Be ahead of the curve by being prepared and take the challenge head on.

 

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