Following the publication of Preoday’s ‘Food and Drink Chains Struggles’ research, we were delighted to receive some excellent responses from industry influencers. Since then we have been talking to market professionals to see what they think of the results and how they reflect their experience.
We caught up with Sam Phillippe restaurant Consultant at helpforresturants.com, to get his views
What did you think of the findings of the report, how does it tally with what you’re seeing in the industry?
I thought it was fairly accurate and pretty much matches up with what I’ve been finding with regards to the casual dining sector overall and the importance of data for helping restaurants thrive. The current environment is challenging, but it’s a challenging industry and I don’t believe that Brexit alone is making it significantly more difficult.
What do you think the effect of struggling restaurant chains will be for others in the industry?
In my opinion, this new environment makes things a bit easier for smaller players. Consumers are seeing too many brands these days, there is a lot of congestion here, and lots of similarity among the big restaurant players. Consumers seem to have an appetite for something more meaningful in terms of the brand and the overall customer experience – both of which I believe suffer in the larger brands. There is an increasing number of small, independent operators and consumers love eating at food outlets that are run by people who love food. It’s the way restaurants should be. There are lots of brands who have been relying for too long on old marketing methods, an unoriginal approach, and pretty basic standards of service. Alas, many have forgotten that the ultimate marketing tool – word of mouth and genuine brand loyalty are driven by the most essential element… passionate restaurateurs.
Consumers value brands which have a very strong identity. They shouldn’t try to be all things to all people. The most popular restaurants – branded or independant – in the UK are places that have a simple offering but do what they do well, and with passion.
You mentioned that data is important to restaurants, what impact can it have, in your experience?
Insight into customers is crucial in any business, but in the fast-paced restaurant industry it can be particularly important to business success. Nowadays, with the technology we have, data is abundantly available. The problem is that many restaurateurs don’t realise how important it is or rarely have the skill or experience to be able to interpret the data to get the most from it.
Learning to interpret data enables restaurant owners to make smart decisions that can directly and quickly impact sales growth and profitability. For example, by using data to pinpoint and to confirm my gut feel, a restaurant brand I recently worked with was able to save £20,000 per month in their operating costs by tweaking a few items on their menu, some of their recipes and selling prices, and reduce their labour cost through more efficient staff rotas.
So do you think data is the solution to restaurants’ challenges at the moment?
I don’t think that data is the be all and end all – you can improve a restaurant without it – to a point. But, having access to data saves time, allows you to track progress, and identify issues you may have missed. In my opinion, the most important factor in the restaurant business is the people. This isn’t really a food industry, it’s a people industry and it’s the people on the ground that best understand the situation they’re in – usually. Data is there as a backup or as a guide to pinpoint the team or manager’s instincts – and of course an important tool when you are wanting to give praise for great improvement and allows for accountability.
I often find that, when management identifies a problem, the restaurant staff already know the solution. But that is exactly how it should be, and where the use of data comes in. People using data can help identify a problem and the people in the business can help solve it.
Big brands often lose their connection with the people on the front line – and more importantly – the people on the frontline can lose their connection with their customers. However, consumers continue to recognise their importance. I thought it was interesting that in your report, when asked to rank the most important thing about a restaurant, consumers ranked the helpfulness of the staff as the third most important, only behind the menu and quality of food. This just goes to show that for the people who go to restaurants, it’s the people inside them that matter.
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