How Do You Revive a Struggling Restaurant?

Restaurants are one of the most commonly owned businesses in an over-saturated industry. For example, it isn’t uncommon to find seven cafes selling the same products within a few miles of each other. The sheer competition in the restaurant industry can make it extremely difficult for one to stand out amongst a sea of options, often leading to struggling restaurants around every corner. 

Luckily, there are ways to revive a struggling restaurant with dedication and the right strategies. Below we’ve listed some of the best ways you can revive a struggling restaurant by making some simple changes and the occasional difficult decision. Before you know it, you should have a thriving business, and your struggles will be a thing of the past.  

Clean Up Your Team

A restaurant’s team gives it a strong foundation for serving customers and making a great impression when it matters. If you have exceptional servers and skilled chefs, your reputation will eventually spread, leading to increased service and profits. 

The best way to clean up your team is to spend quality time training every member to ensure they are conducting themselves at the highest standards and doing the best work they’re capable of. Unfortunately, it also means removing current employees that consistently fail to meet these standards.

You’ll want to start with training first to give your employees the opportunity to learn how to do their job properly and follow the clear example you’re setting for them. 

If an employee is consistently troublesome (ex. always late, slacks off on their duties, frequently complains), it is best for your team and restaurant as a whole to let them go, so you are left with only the best workers who actually want to be there and working during their shifts.  

Cut Down on Costs

Sometimes, when running a restaurant, it can feel like your money is being flung all over the place, and everything is adding up far too quickly. Despite what many struggling restaurant owners think, not all of these costs are necessary. 

One way to help a struggling restaurant is to increase your profits but cutting down on unnecessary costs. Even the smallest things here and there can add up over time and reduce the amount of money you lose overall. 

Some significant changes you can make include finding cheaper food suppliers of the same, if not higher, quality. 

You can also send staff home when business is slow, and it no longer makes sense to pay for their labor, considering the lack of service. This is often a hard decision to make if your employees are struggling for hours, but this might be another sign that your team is too large and needs to be reduced. 

Another way to cut costs is to reconsider your hours of operation. For instance, if you profit significantly during dinner and late-night hours but lose a lot of this profit staying open for slow lunches, it might be in your best interest to change your hours to be a dinner/late-night eatery than lose money operating earlier in the day. Or, if you offer breakfast and notice service dwindles by eleven despite being open until noon, cut off this unproductive hour and save yourself the extra cost. 

Our next suggestion on this list is another great way to cut costs while improving your overall food service.

Make Some Menu Changes

At the end of the day, people go to restaurants to eat good food, and while it might be a hard pill to swallow, a struggling restaurant should strongly consider the fact that perhaps their food is the root of the issue. 

Making some menu changes is a great way to revitalize a restaurant, cut down on food costs, and increase overall food quality. 

If you’ve been serving the same tired dishes for the past few years, maybe it’s time to glance at your recipes and see if you can spruce them up, add some interesting new dishes, or remove old ones entirely. 

Many restaurants find success cutting down their menu size to half or even a third of what it once was to increase food quality and reduce waste. 

It is far better to specialize in a limited number of dishes that come out exemplary every time than to offer a large selection of dishes that often come out mediocre are vary significantly in quality per dish. 

Additionally, reducing the menu can also help limit the overall cost of food, especially if you find yourself frequently wasting certain ingredients because that particular dish hardly sells.

Host Special Events 

Restaurants aren’t just places to eat food; many are also social hubs where people go for a night of entertainment or to celebrate a special occasion. 

Therefore, a struggling restaurant would benefit from hosting events to entice more customers to their location, increase the duration of their stay, and set them apart from other nearby eateries. 

Common events restaurants will host include:

  • Food specials (ex. happy hour, Taco Tuesday, Wing Wednesday, etc.)

  • Entertainments (ex. live bands, televisions running sporting events, karaoke)

  • Charity events or fundraisers 

  • Guest chef or bartender night 

  • Cooking classes

Hosting these events not only helps bring in service but also increases your presence in the public eye and helps ensure your restaurant becomes synonymous with the community.

Be Present on Social Media

Marketing is arguably one of the utmost important tactics that will set a thriving restaurant apart from struggling and on the brink of closure. If you can only afford to dedicate your time, money, and resources to one form of marketing, it should be social media. 

Social media is the epitome of marketing as it can reach a march larger audience than other tactics and keep your restaurant in the public eye daily with enough dedication and devotion. The best thing a restaurant can do is have a prominent presence on popular social media sights and strive to increase its following. 

Followers almost always equal customers. The degree strongly depends on how successful you are at this form of marketing but having a strong online presence will only help improve your restaurant’s reputation and relevance. 

When it comes to restaurants, we strongly recommend you make a Facebook and Instagram account. On Facebook, you should post about new events, coupons and deals customers can use, and upcoming events. 

On Instagram, you need to showcase any and all food items that come out of your kitchen. If your chefs create a new menu item, post it on Instagram. If your restaurant’s new cocktail bar is up and running, post a picture of the cocktail of the week. 

These images will show potential consumers what you have to offer and give them a visual reason to seek your restaurant.

Check Customer Reviews for Feedback

It can be difficult to read negative feedback about something as personal and important as your struggling restaurant, but customer reviews are often the best resource for these businesses to locate their weaknesses and improve. 

Reading customer reviews can help a struggling restaurant pinpoint what elements people enjoy and what needs to change. Since restaurants are ultimately created to serve consumers, their opinion and feedback matter most for ultimate success.

Try to be open-minded when you read customer feedback and recognize when one person is intentionally hostile or unreasonable and when their feedback has genuine, constructive criticism.

For instance, if one customer claims their service was terrible because they waited an exceptionally long time for everything, they might be embellishing. However, if several customers complain about long wait times, then it’s time to re-evaluate how your team is running and why this issue might be reoccurring. 

On a side note, having a strong social media presence can also help combat any poor reviews your restaurant might have on websites such as Yelp or Google My Business.

Final Thoughts

Reviving a struggling restaurant is an uphill battle, but it can absolutely be done. The steps above, along with a positive attitude, will help bring a restaurant back to life. 

Also read: Should Restaurants Add a Picture on the Menu?


You Want To Open A Restaurant, But Have No Idea Where To Start From?

Get my book ” The Ultimate Guide To Opening A Restaurant Business” and discover all you should know about this industry before spending a penny.