It is no secret that the restaurant business took a big hit this past year. Now that the country is starting to put COVID-19 and the age of lockdowns in the rearview mirror, restaurant owners are looking for ways to grow their business in 2021 and 2022.

The trick to helping your business grow is more than just claiming your restaurant’s GMB, starting a business Instagram, or running weekly promotions. The key to growing your restaurant business is to find what works best for your local community and customers, and deploy digital tools and strategies to encourage them to keep coming back.

If you are ready to take your restaurant to the next level, here are 7 ways to grow your business as a restaurant owner!

Understand your community

Restaurants are a key part of any local community. They are places where people gather to dine, socialize, share, and celebrate. But every community is different and understanding your neighborhood is critical to your restaurant’s success. 

Are you in an area with a lot of families and children? If so, offering services that cater to that demographic may make sense. Are you in an area with office workers? You may want to structure your hours and menu to fit into their needs.

Focus on customer and employee service

After months of lockdowns and uncertainty, customers are looking to restaurants as a place to escape and enjoy. It’s critical that you have the right staff and training in place to create a welcoming environment for your customers that keep them coming back. You can empower managers to lead weekly staff check-ins focused on customer service skills or reward your employees for going above and beyond.

It’s also critical that you take this approach with your employees. As the restaurant business comes back to life, many restaurants are facing labor shortages and struggling to stay open with slimmed down staff. You need to ensure that your employees are treated and compensated fairly so they can deliver the best experience for your customers.

Flex your footprint

Many restaurants weathered the COVID-19 storm by being creative about their restaurant space. Outdoor dining, pick up windows, and new seating configurations became important strategies to keep customers coming back. Some restaurants have even used extra space to host community events or parties as an additional revenue stream. 

“We have two conference rooms that can be reserved and rented out for birthday parties, community gatherings, wedding showers, things like that. So it’s really a community-oriented space.”

        - Greta Dvorak, Owner, Dunn Brother’s Coffee, Minnesota 

Offset rising food costs

Tracking food costs can both help grow your business and reduce food waste. As you know, restaurant margins are often small, and reducing food costs can help put a little more money back into the business. The first step to manage food costs is to calculate food costs so you know exactly how much you are spending. The second step is to check your inventory to ensure that food isn’t going bad before it is used. Once you know how much food your business uses, you should shop around among different food suppliers to get a better deal.

It might benefit your restaurant to make menu changes that bring down food costs. For example, consider offering a limited menu, shopping locally, having the kitchen do more prep work, or only offering dishes with in-season ingredients. There are also several digital tools that you can use to stay on top of your food costs, and help bring them down over time.

Optimize your website

If you do not already have a website, it is time to make one. Your website needs to be simple and easy-to-use, so that customers of all ages will be able to navigate it. For a website to be effective, it needs to give both new and returning customers the information that they need. This means that your website must have an up-to-date menu that is clearly readable, as well as information about ingredients. In fact, over 86% of diners check a restaurant menu online before dining. You can use that moment to excite diners before they even step foot in your restaurant.

Expand your digital presence 

In addition to your website, diners look at other third party websites before deciding where to eat out. Many diners will turn to websites like Yelp or social media profiles to view photos of food or restaurant interiors. Is your Yelp page up to date and active? Do you regularly respond to reviews? Do you have an active instagram account with photos of new menu items? Set aside a few hours every week to monitor these channels and make sure that the digital profile you are putting out to your community is active and up to date.

Invest in marketing with a clear ROI

If you want to grow your business, there are many ways to go about marketing your restaurant. The problem is that many of these methods do not bring in new customers the way they claim to. For example, digital ads might get you “impressions” and “clicks” but it is unclear how these translate into new customers and increased sales. 

The best way to get the biggest bang for your buck with marketing is to join the personalization revolution with GetUpside. GetUpside is an easy-to-use app that brings in new customers and increases check sizes for returning customers. The app uses your business’s existing customer data to give each customer a personalized promotion, including cash back offers. GetUpside is the best way to grow your business because it guarantees new profits, it is easy to use, and you don’t have to pay for anything until you see your results. 

Now that diners are coming back to restaurants, it’s time to focus on ways to grow your business in 2021 and 2022. By identifying what works best for your local community and customers, and deploying digital tools and strategies that encourage them to keep coming back, you can put your restaurant on the right path for growth.