How To Save a Failing Restaurant: 6 Ideas That Work Wonders

Marketing 19 minute read 9th January 2024

When you’re opening a new restaurant, the last thing you want to think about is its failure. But you never know what the future holds. Instead of having to scramble for a plan B, why not learn how to save a failing restaurant early on?

But let’s get one thing clear. Declining sales don’t point to the business owners or their employees’ failure. Your restaurant might merely need a change to start getting its customers back.

Some restaurant owners resort to selling their restaurants during tough times without realizing there’s a lot more they can do.

If you’re one of them, you might find this article extremely useful. This article will give you six ideas to bring your restaurant back from the edge.

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Signs a Restaurant Is Failing: Sense Danger Before It Gets Worse

Running a restaurant is no easy task. When you’re juggling everything from sales to operations, the smallest red flag can send you reeling. But if it’s just an off-season for your restaurant, you’ll end up worrying about nothing. So, here are the real signs a restaurant is failing.

  1. Too Many Competitors: A wrong location will definitely steer your restaurant away from success. If the area has too many restaurants, you’re up for failure from the start unless you beat all others. But again, a constant state of competition might take your attention away from things that matter.
  2. Less Foot Traffic: Your restaurant won’t always be buzzing with activity. Of course, there will be some off-seasons when people don’t usually dine out. But if you’re facing poor foot traffic for a long time, take it as a sign that your restaurant is failing.
  3. Lack of Experience: Anticipating your customers’ needs and taking appropriate action never gets easier. It takes time and patience to become experienced in any line of business, especially in the restaurant industry. But if you find your restaurant failing, the experience might be the reason.
  4. Bad Reviews: Reviews are extremely important for hospitality businesses. Getting a bad review once in a while isn’t that bad. But if these reviews tip the scales in their favor, their ratio will become more than positive. They might be about the ambiance, food quality, or service. But this is a surefire sign that people aren’t happy.
  5. Lack of Owner’s Presence: This might seem unrelated, but if you’re not present at your restaurant, your staff will follow suit. They won’t show ambition to serve your guests, and you’ll find yourself wondering if your restaurant is failing.

How To Save a Failing Restaurant: 6 Ideas To Turn Things Around

While a small dip in sales doesn’t mean failure, your worry is justifiable. After all, everyone’s familiar with the fact that a massive 60% of restaurants fail within the first year.

You have a better chance of surviving if you recognize the signs early on. But what are the steps you can take? When you set out to answer this question, you’ll find conflicting advice. People might even try to scare you into shutting your restaurant business down.

But don’t worry because there’s a lot you can do before it comes to that. So, here’s how to save a failing restaurant.

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Create Restaurant Brand Awareness

If you’re facing failure, it might be time to create or change the restaurant brand awareness surrounding your venue. Would you give your money to a stranger? Of course not!

In the same way, people hesitate to invest their money in restaurants without brand awareness. They’ll ask their friends and family for suggestions, or they might turn to online reviews. Now, if they don’t find your restaurant’s name anywhere, they won’t visit it.

So, start by thinking of something that makes you stand out from others. Do you use farm-to-table ingredients in your food? Or maybe you have a unique restaurant concept.

It doesn’t have to be anything extensive. Even a single extraordinary menu item is enough to outshine the competition.

Once you’re able to put your finger on this aspect of your business, create a brand around it. Choose colors, patterns, and language that match with this image.

Your restaurant should have a memorable personality that sticks in people’s minds. It should make them curious to explore your venue.

Your best bet is to create a story that your customer profiles can relate to. People invest in brands that feel relatable to them. Share your vision and mission statements so they feel like they know you.

Moreover, learning about your target audience will give you better direction into what your branding should be like.

For example, if you’re trying to appeal to businesspeople, your identity should revolve around ease and convenience. But if you want more young adults to visit your restaurant, a funky brand identity would work better.

Additionally, get yourself a Google business account and create profiles on review sites. The exposure will help create brand awareness and build authority among your customers.

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Rethink Your Menu and Opening Hours

One of the many reasons why restaurants fail is their habit of constantly changing their menu and operating hours. With that said, a small tweak now and then can actually work in your favor.

Again, your operating hours will depend on your target audience. Students will probably be visiting your restaurant in the evening, once they’re free.

But employees and businesspeople will want to visit your restaurant during lunchtime.

So, even the most delicious food and outstanding ambiance won’t do you any good with the wrong operating hours.

Moreover, you should develop your menu items to fit your target audience’s preferences. For example, if you’re targeting families, add kid-friendly meals and options that the whole family can share.

Marketing yourself as a fine dining restaurant when your menu is full of fast food won’t work in your favor.

Additionally, customers are your best advisors. It’s for them that you’re making all these efforts. So, why not ask them what they expect from your restaurant?

Reach them out on social media and conduct surveys. The results might reveal items that the majority of your customers don’t like.

Similarly, you’ll get ideas for missing items to add to your menu. Once you make these changes, you’ll find customers pouring in because now everything matches their demands.

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Think Outside of Dining In

Another idea you can use to save a failing restaurant is offering delivery and takeaway. Customers now demand ease and convenience. They no longer want to dine out on a regular basis unless it’s a special occasion.

But they want to order their favorite dishes when they don’t like cooking. Would you mind if some of those orders came your way and increased your sales? Of course not!

The good thing is you don’t even have to create an app of your own when you’re just starting.

Third-party restaurant delivery apps work just fine to get your customers’ orders. All you need to do is register your restaurant on platforms like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash.

Add your menu items and follow the rules of each platform to grab your customers’ attention.

Moreover, add authentic images of your dishes that are of good quality. Not only will this make customers trust you, but appetizing visuals can induce hunger in viewers. So, why not capitalize on it?

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider creating your app. No matter how good your listing is on third-party apps, it doesn’t include your branding.

Having an app of your own will add to this brand image, and people will be more comfortable ordering from your restaurant.

Another path you can take is adding a delivery widget to your website. Many website builders let you do this even if you don’t want to go for custom code.

Or simply let customers place orders through social media. But for this, you have to give clear instructions to avoid confusing your customers.

Sometimes, people don’t visit a restaurant for fear that it won’t have a table available. So, lastly, use a reservation system to take bookings.

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Promote Loyalty Programs and Deals Through In-Store Marketing

Business owners have been using discounts to lure in customers for a long time. The same goes for loyalty programs.

When you make customers feel like they belong, they’re more likely to eat at your restaurant. Plus, rewards never fail to make a customer want to stay loyal. So, as soon as you notice the first signs of failure, introduce irresistible offers and loyalty programs.

You could use the fear of missing out and introduce a limited-time offer for the most popular menu items. Or give your customers a buy one get one free deal every once in a while.

Moreover, create tiers for your restaurant loyalty programs. The more a customer spends in your restaurant, the more you reward them.

For example, give a small discount to the most regular customers. You can also give points to customers when they pay for their food. Once they have enough points, they can redeem their rewards.

Once you’ve chosen what discounts and rewards you want to give, let customers know through in-store marketing. It is the act of displaying ads and posters inside your venue to keep your customers in the loop.

After all, people won’t give you their loyalty unless you give them something in return. So, create ad campaigns, posters, and signage that let people know the latest offer.

Control Your Restaurant Food Costs

Another reason why you might have a hard time seeing profits from your restaurant is budgeting. You can’t expect a business to be successful if you’re spending more than you’re earning. You should keep an eye on your expenses and control your food costs.

Firstly, never buy more raw materials than you need. It will only go to waste, and that’s the last thing you want when trying to save a failing restaurant. After all, wasted food means wasted money.

Secondly, pay attention to the proper plating of your menu items. If the portion is too big, customers will end up wasting most of it.

You can’t even serve that food to other customers. So, again, that will lead to waste. And if the portion is too small, it will frustrate your customers.

Thirdly, come up with ways to reuse things in your restaurant. If you have the time and resources, consider creating a restaurant compost. This way, you’ll be able to use the food waste and create something new out of it.

But of course, this is an expensive option, and you might not want to invest big when you’re already struggling.

Lastly, try to buy your raw materials from local suppliers since they’re usually less expensive.

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Digital Marketing for Restaurants Can Save Them From Failing

Let’s end this list with digital marketing for restaurants since lack of promotion is another reason for failure. Of course, you should make an effort to generate word of mouth for your restaurant. But that alone isn’t enough.

People are becoming more health conscious now. They want to see what goes into the food they’re eating.

So, post videos of your kitchen on social media. When you reveal how you cook the dishes that customers love, they’ll be comfortable sitting and dining at your restaurant.

Moreover, use email marketing to send personalized messages that match their preferences. When customers see these emails, they’re more likely to act on them.

And how can we forget the good old free WiFi tactic? Customers will appreciate this and give you great reviews, which will help with reputation management.

All Isn’t Lost, Even if You’re Struggling To Make Restaurant Sales

How to save a failing restaurant? This isn’t a question you should ask when you’re on the verge of disaster. Instead, you should know this information from the start as you will be able to take appropriate action. However, the ideas listed in the article can help you save your business and stir it in a bright direction.

To get the most out of these initiatives, try out Beambox. It’s a WiFi marketing platform that has no hidden fees, requires no additional hardware, and is affordable. You can use Beambox to run marketing campaigns on autopilot and get more reviews regularly. Moreover, with Beambox, you can gather data from your customers to understand them better and improve the overall experience.

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