In the food service and hospitality business, running a single-unit operation is hard enough, but managing several locations multiplies the challenges. Customers expect a dependable, consistent quality of food, service, and ambiance with each and every visit to each and every location.
You might be providing exceptional dining experiences at your flagship establishment, but that’s not enough. When you expand to more locations, your customers would invariably expect you to replicate the same quality of service at every single location.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to ensure consistency even as you manage multiple locations. This article discusses some great tips on how to offer the same great dining experience across all your restaurant locations.
Let’s get started.
Why consistency is a crucial aspect of multi-restaurant management
Sixty-one percent of adults (and two-thirds of millennials) in the US would rather spend their money on experiences (like at restaurants) than on products at stores.
As such, consistency in taste, service, and the overall dining experience you offer is the key to winning their trust and making loyal customers out of them.
Even if you decide to experiment a bit with your decor, concept, or menu items at each of your locations, you still need to lay their foundation with a set of cohesive practices. In fact, many of the lessons you’ve learned while running your first establishment can come in handy when you expand to more locations.
Consistent processes and operations can help you exercise control, establish accountability, and improve efficiency without compromising on quality. This can help you deliver exceptional dining experiences every time, regardless of your location.
How to offer consistent dining experiences in multi-location restaurants
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at some best practices that can help keep all your locations in line. Here are a few great tips on how you can offer consistent dining experiences to your patrons even when you entrust others with managing your operations at multiple locations.
1. Standardize your operating procedures
Before you think of expanding your restaurant business to a second location, make sure that your operating procedures are standardized. Maintaining a uniform standard across locations can help you optimize for both performance and efficiency.
“One tip when running multiple restaurant locations is to make sure you have a standardized process for every part of the business, from how employees are trained and how they interact with customers to how the restaurant is decorated, maintained, and cleaned, says Timothy Woods, Owner at Carnivore Style.
“This is very important for two reasons. First, it allows the experience to be consistent so repeat customers get what they know and love every time they visit you. Secondly, standardization makes it much more efficient and easier to run multiple restaurants.”
Once you’ve established your standards, ensure that they’re well-documented.
The lack of proper documentation can not only reduce efficiency but also affect the dining experience negatively. Winging it isn’t going to cut it; you need to have your restaurant processes, accountabilities, and procedures in black and white.
For example, if recipes and food presentation guidelines aren’t written down properly, your kitchen staff will be left guessing as to what constitutes a portion of each dish. This means that your customers might end up with different versions of the same dish — one in which the steak has been sliced too thin or one where it’s sliced too thick.
Not only can this inefficient practice mess with your inventory, it also provides an unsatisfactory experience for customers.
On the other hand, if your recipes are documented, your staff will leave very little to chance while preparing the dishes. Also, if they ever have any questions about these dishes, dietary or otherwise, they can always refer to the recipes and guidelines.
Following the instructions to the letter will ensure that your restaurant delivers a consistent level of taste in all your menu items across every location.
Besides recipes, you must also document staff responsibilities, work shifts, organizational hierarchy, daily cleaning and maintenance checklists, etc. to standardize your operating procedures.
2. Standardize hiring and training
“If you want to provide a consistent dining experience, you have to have the same kind of people working at each location,” remarks Markus Albert, Managing Director at Eat First.
“Kitchen staff, front of house and even management must all be on the same page in every location for each restaurant to operate in a similar manner. This is what all successful chains have in common.”
Attracting and hiring great employees starts with having a clear sense of what your brand is all about. What does your restaurant stand for? What do you value? Who do you cater to? Knowing these things will help you gain clarity into what type of people to hire. When you have a solid understanding of your brand, then you’ll be able to discern which candidates are the best fit for your business.
Already have great people in your restaurants? See to it that they’re well-trained.
Staff training is another critical factor when maintaining consistency across all your locations. If you invest a good amount of time in helping them understand how things should be done, you can greatly minimize errors and inconsistencies.
Proper training will give your staff the knowledge and the confidence they need to do their job well. So besides providing in-depth training when you first hire them, make sure to conduct refreshers from time to time.
Sixty-eight percent of restaurants are known to share an employee handbook with their new recruits but only 36% formally check in after the first 30 days. Regular check-ins and supervision are essential to ensuring the effectiveness of your training.
3. Leverage technology and systems
The right tools and technology can make it a lot easier for you to manage multiple restaurant locations. Industry data shows that 95% of restaurateurs report that technology helps to improve business efficiency while 73% of diners say that it improves the guest experience.
POS systems. A cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) system can help you track time and attendance, manage inventory, payments, and accounting across all your outlets from a centralized location. You can also circulate supplies and food as well as share and update recipes from your central main kitchen to other locations.
Handheld POS terminals can help you manage guests and wait times more efficiently. In fact, the use of handheld POS terminals helped Austin-based restaurant Odd Duck reduce turn-times by 30 – 45 minutes per table.
Audit solutions. These can help you conduct regular audits and inspections to make sure that operating standards are being met at each of your locations. Restaurant audit software can also help you impart training to your staff or verify food safety with features like checklists, tasks, and instant updates.
4. Maintain the same look and feel
The design and ambiance of your restaurants contribute a great deal to the overall dining experience. If you want to achieve consistency, make sure all your locations have a similar look and feel.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all your restaurants have to look identical. In some cases, it helps to infuse each location with unique elements to give them a local flavor. However, there should also be certain similarities across different locations to give diners a sense of your brand.
Tim Spiegelglass, Owner of Spiegelglass Construction Company, recommends that you “utilize a lot of the same finishes (floors, tiles, etc.) at each location so your diners recognize the same look and feel each time.”
If you do want to change certain design elements, be sure to discuss it with your construction partners.
“Keep a list of things you want to change for next time with an eye toward maintaining a consistent look and feel,” Spiegelglass adds.
“Is the flow not working as well as you had hoped? Do you wish you would have used a different type of flooring? Let your architect and general contractor know; that way they can make recommendations for your next location that align with your brand image.”
5. Ask your customers for feedback
Don’t underestimate the power of customer feedback when it comes to multi-restaurant management. To ensure that your customers are receiving consistent experiences across all your locations, go ahead and ask them how they feel.
You can create surveys with a set of questions about their recent dining experience at your establishment and send them via email. You could also print the URL at the bottom of their receipts and have your staff bring it to their attention. Responses to such surveys can help you with valuable insights which you can use to improve your processes further.
You should also keep an eye out for online and social media reviews about your brand to learn more about the experiences of your customers. Social listening tools can alert you whenever someone mentions your brand online so you can review them and take the necessary action.
Multi-restaurant management is both complex and challenging. As an owner or district manager, you need to be comfortable relinquishing some degree of control to others and trust them to manage your operations without compromising on quality.
The biggest challenge in multi-restaurant management is in making sure that you offer a consistent dining experience across all your locations. Luckily, this can be managed easily by following the tips mentioned above.
So, make sure to document every practice and process, train your staff properly, and leverage the right technology to ensure that you deliver consistent dining experiences every time.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.