How to kill your restaurant fast
Why did the downtown restaurant close?
The downtown restaurant opened
about a year earlier. I wasn't surprised that it closed. I was surprised that it stayed open so long. It was around
the corner from my office. I walked past it every time I visited the restaurant next door - about once a
Have you ever watched a
restaurant open and then watch it slowly starve to death? Have you ever wondered why they failed? Or did you know
what they were doing wrong? Maybe you even offered constructive feedback to the staff and owners only to get a
nasty look in return. We can see the self-destruction - while the owners seem to be
Why is that? Because we see it from the perspective of a
customer. The owners are engulfed in their emotional world of "It's mine - it must be
beautiful". And maybe they keep telling themselves, "Hey, I spent a lot of money fixing up this place - people just
have to see it my way - eventually".
What business are you
One of the biggest mistakes that
restaurant owners make is to believe that they are in the food business. Big mistake! Grocery stores are in the
food business. Restaurants are in the experience business. The experience at McDonalds is very different from that
at Boston Pizza from TGI Fridays from Ruth's Chris Steak House. Yet they are all in the same business - just
different segments of it.
Why do restaurants fail? It's
usually not the food. Here are three more restaurant failures that I witnessed recently in our
There was the Middle Eastern
restaurant that offered Shwarma in a setting that looked more like a Burger King than a Middle Eastern décor. A big
disconnect. And even though I lived only three blocks away I never received a flyer from them. They seemed
reluctant to advertise.
Joe's Diner seemed like a welcome
change. They advertised in the paper, on lamp posts and sign boards. Lots of promotion. However, after three
breakfast visits I swore never to return because the service was very slow and the servers unfriendly. The young
girls were clearly untrained and they seemed more interested in chatting with their friends than serving customers.
Often three of the staff chatted openly at the bar.
I looked forward to the opening
of the new English pub. The décor was impressive. The owners clearly invested a lot of money. Lots of wood, a dance
floor and it was small enough to be cozy. After one breakfast visit, one lunch and two dinner explorations they
were written off my list. The service made the glaciers look fast. The food was mediocre and the serving staff
either failed to recognize the inconvenience or made excuses when we pointed out the
So why did the downtown
restaurant fail? I suspect that the restaurant owners followed a marketing strategy of hope. Hope is an admirable
personal quality. It is a lousy marketing strategy.
I never visited this restaurant
because it did not look inviting. I walked past at lunch time on a snowy day and the sidewalk wasn't cleaned. It
It had floor-to-ceiling sized
windows across the front - but it always looked dark inside - as if the lights weren't on. I was never sure about
the cuisine although it hinted at Italian - which is my favorite. It never looked busy, and oftentimes looked
closed. It lacked music that might have suggested excitement to invite folks in. I saw nothing that looked like a
grand opening. I saw nothing special going on. Although my office was just around the corner, I never saw an
announcement or invitation. I never saw anyone standing outside to welcome passers-by from the main street of
Imagine if they had done
something just a little different to create excitement. Imagine if they had put balloons outside, hired dancers,
held free draws, sponsored a charity event, knocked on doors, offered coupons, distributed menus, invited service
clubs to meet… something.
Well, too bad that it closed; I
was thinking that I might check it out one time. The food might have been superb. But restaurants are not in the
food business. They are in the experience business. They failed to invite me in, which is the first part of the
This downtown restaurant failed
in early 2006 - long before the current turbulent times. You can imagine that the business owners probably blamed
the market, the location or luck instead of their own lack of marketing. Those business lessons are even more
important today. Many businesses will fail over the next few years and the owners will blame the "market" instead
of being responsible for their own success or failure.
They had a good location and the
economy was good yet they still failed. Location is not the panacea. Luck comes if you do enough of the right
things. Business will fail in good and bad economies. Only the excuses will change.
Learn from the lessons of these
failed restaurants. I recently spent over $100 on dinner for two at a fine-dining restaurant. The service was
fabulous. We would go again. Be very clear on the experience you must deliver. If you run a restaurant be clear
that you are not in the food business.
George Torok brings practical insights to business. He is co-author of Secrets of Power
Marketing, the first guide to personal marketing for the non-marketer. As host of Business in Motion he has
interviewed over 400 business leaders. He is available to deliver keynote speeches and business seminars. Contact
him at 905-335-1997 or visit www.Business-Speaker.biz
You can read an excerpt from the book
at www.PowerMarketing.ca. Get
your free Marketing Tune-up at www.MarketingTuneUp.ca.
Marketing expert, George Torok is available for speaking engagements and media interviews at
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Business Articles by Business Speaker, George Torok