Large Restaurant

I guess you all are pretty tired of my asking questions and advice all the time.

I wasn’t sure if you all were aware how big our restaurant is. We seat 120 people. If we moved out the video games, we could seat about 15 more people. If we used our space wisely in the back, we could add more tables and seat another 20 there also.

How do I get butts in the seats with a place this size? Obviously, $3.99 buffet isn’t the answer.

Our restaurant has been filled twice - our invitation night and our Grand Opening night.

would it make sense to decrease the size of your normal dining room and use the extra space for catering parties or only when it gets busy…I think people get discouraged when they see the place empty…I am not sure if this is an option in your place, but I have seen places that are partitioned off for this purpose

Well first off don’t feel as though we are tired of you asking questions. Believe it or not for me I love to hear and eagerly await your posts. It keeps my mind off the crap I have going on. And you actually appreciate the input.

A couple of things I wanted to say…leave the video games certainly don’t take up much needed space. Parents like the distraction it gives the kids.

I would be careful about adding more space. I think of the cost it has taken me to pay for the furnishing on our small space when money was tight. (Broken chairs, silverware condiment holders, parm chz) Sure not a ton of money but when its tight it sucks to have to order a whole case of this or that to fill a few.

Third, Be a customer at your own place. What do you like when you go out? Do you like to be waited on? Do you mind ordering at a counter?
Sit at each table with your husband and look around. Are things clean? Pick up the condiments are they clean. Are the pictures cleaned? Are the air vents dirty? What is the view of the kitchen and counter area…clean or cluttered?

And most importantly…don’t give up on things you try… this is week 2 if I am not mistaken for the buffet…Give it time…Even though I know you and hubby are exhausted spruce yourself up… take turns taking even an hour to go and relax between two and four and be there for the buffet. Even if you feel as though you feel you have tons of staff there…it is crucial you are both there. Shaking hands, getting feedback.

Okay so you have the buffet thing going on…you can still do other marketing strategies while that is going on. Give yourself time before you throw the towel in on your ideas.

You obviously have a computer so you can box top like crazy. Make up some coupons on your computer cut them in 1/2 to save money and box top something.

Talk like crazy to us, we are all more than thrilled to bombard you with ideas. Update us on what you are doing and what you think migh work.

Okay so I have babbled on… but don’t feel alone…we have all been there.

And as always make sure to stop and hug your husband you both need it and at the end of the day it is really what matters.

I think j_r0kk would say consistent marketing plan is the answer to your question. Instead of adding more seats, keep up an ongoing marketing onslaught to get your name repetitively in front of the customers. Doing it once or twice is advertising, which will get a few hooked. Consistency and systematic approach is a marketing plan that will grow as you keep it going.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, and not even too fancy. The doorhangers and flyers, done consistently and systematicly, should buildon itself. Do what you can afford, and do it regularly. You may have to toy with different specials until you get some keepers. Aim at some local groups to create some buzz. Get them in for some group specials, maybe: church groups, school groups, college clubs, little league teams (that time of year), all sort of groups could be enticed to come in for a group rate of some sort. More people to talk about our food, and more top line revenues that you may not have had otherwise.

Just spewing ideas as they come to me before bed.

We are definitely not adding more seats or getting rid of the video games. I was just trying to give you an idea of how big the store is.

I do look at the store a lot from a customer perspective. I especially look at the back area and feel there should be some other way to rearrange the tables to look more inviting. We do have groups book the back for parties, although this month has been a little slow with only 2 parties booked.

I’ll be honest with you guys - we are broke. Personally and business wise. Our electric bill was over $1500.00 this month. We just can’t seem to get caught up.

My husband is so depressed right now, feeling like a failure and that no one is supporting us (other than PMQ). He’s mentioned bankruptcy to me on several occasions - especially when we have bad days.

He says he would sell everything right now if someone offered him $160,000. Of course, at that price, we wouldn’t make a dime off of it.

Sorry to sound so depressing, but we really thought things were starting to look better, then after daylight savings time hit, our sales slid. Our first Monday night $3.99 buffet did pretty good and last night was a big let down.

I can handle the ups and downs, but Bill, who was never in debt until we bought this place, isn’t handling it well at all.

Quick thoughts that may or may not be valid and helpful.
Daylight savings always disrupts customer patterns. It takes a couple of weeks for things to settle down.
one week, or even two weeks is not much time to expect results from a new anything.
Tough times. Most of us have been there at one time or another. Many years ago I remember one restaurant I opened and things were very tough. Good comments on food but business was slow developing. MY wife and I made a promise to ourselves. Every night, no matter what, we promised ourselves that we would distribute X number of menus to the mail boxes of nearby residents. We did that for some time. And every day I promised myself that I would do something to get at least one new customer. It took time but it worked.
Depressed? A friend, many years ago, lost everything he had. He was pretty well off at the time. He started to mope around, sleep as late as possible and just generally vegetate. Then he began to realize that he was wallowing in his own misery and killing himself with his own mind. He vowed to change that. Even though he had no job or business to go to he made himself get up early every morning and do at least one positive thing towards climbing out of his hole. He started the morning by reading something positive about what other peopel had done. EVERY morning he did this; not just some mornings. He drove to business areas , got out of his car and walked the streets observing other businesses to get ideas and inspiration. He did a lot of thinking. He said to himself…this is not the end of the world. Dying is the end of the world. I can still work he said. I have a brain and skiils that somebody needs. I can learn from others as I am working in their businesses. He got his mind going in a positive direction and made his body follow. He thought that if he was successful once then he could do it again and maybe better because he would be smarter. That guy did turn it around and became successfull again and without the help of some financial angel. I still remember the thing he always used to say to me when we touched on his experience…“Get up early every morning and do something”.
In my very first restaurant many, many years ago I opened a franchise of a very successful chain. Every location this company opened was instantly successful; excepf the one I opened. I was 28 years old, undercapitalized, had a wife who was pregnant and a car that was a total embarrassment. I layed off everybody not absolutely essential and I worked every day, open to close, for one solid year (took exactly one day off with the flu). I bought extra dishes so I could be the dishwasher after the lunch hour. I sometimes just slept at the restaurant because it was not worth it to go home when I had to be back in 5 hours or so. I talked to almost every customer who walked in the door. We cleaned, we made sure the food was good, etc. I knew I had everything at risk but I figured the worst that could happen is that I would have to go work for somebody else for a time… We made it and opened several more. I learned lessons from that first miserable experience that saved and made me mucho money over the years.
Wasn’t Harlan Sanders about 62 when he started KFC?
Enjoy whatever you do. Have a passion for whatever you do. Without sincere passion most anything you do will not be as rewarding as you would like. Passion drives you to read and learn all you can about what you are doing. Passion gives you energy. Passion and energy transfer to employees as well as customers. It doesn’t make any difference what you choose to do in life but it does make a big difference if you do not truly love and have passion for it. There are so many opportunities in this great country it is unbelievable. There are so many places and sources to access for information and help. Get the mind turned around and the body will follow.

Add note. Benchmarking
go to every business that does what you do. You can learn just as much from poor operations as you can good ones. When I had several restaurants developed I asked my managers to periodically visit every other franchise operation in the area. Then we would have a meeting to disucss what we learned.
For instance…Vegas last week. I went to the show two days early and I had a list of every food operation I wanted to visit. Picked up some great stuff. I think I was more tired when I came home than when I left from all the running around and then the show. I talked to emloyees and managers and asked questions of all these operations. Some would talk and some would not but I came back with a ton of ideas and thoughts that I am now sorting through to determine if and then how they may apply.

I have to say when I read that last post it felt like I was saying it. I know I have alot to say but just ignore it if its too much. I am in the same boat- I dont know if it makes you feel any better but know you are not alone. Let me start by saying I am a 36 year old single woman, so when I start feeling bad about my situation there is no one to talk to. None of my friends own businesses so they dont understand and they think I am crazy for doing what I do. I hope you and your husband know how lucky you are just to have eachother. I bought a successful business a year a a half ago. I used to come in and help them out when it was busy, I knew the family that I bought it from and knew his lifestyle was much richer than mine so I thought I would be fine. They never worked very much. He had 2 kids and a wife. I was looking at all this probably more than his financials, regardless after buying the place there was a problem that was never staightened with the lease. Within 2 months I had to move. I have never done any of this before. I had 6,000 start up after the moving expenses I thought I was still doing okay. I didnt have any money, but almost everything was paid. Needless to say, I got behind on taxes and am still currently 7,000 behind in taxes. I was sooo depressed a couple of months ago I was surely going down a mental path of no good. There were days where I just felt like crying all day- I have to say that was when I stumbled on to this site. Actually the mag. was sent to me and I dont know why- had never gotten one before. Just knowing these guys are here to help gave me my first bit of relief. The next was all the great ideas. I read through the archives and just couldnt get enough. This site reminded me of why I was here. It probably saved my mind. Suddenly I had the energy to start doing anything I could to bring in more business. I have done all the doorhanging and went knocking on doors at condos. Either way, I was brought back to life.
Secondly, I dont know about your personal life but I had just come from a job making good money and only working maybe 30 hours, weekends off and nights too. I had a great social life and I would take long walks and bike rides. I think what was so depressing is I stopped my life. I just bought my first treadmill, and now I just make sure I go out with my friends at least once a week. I give myself the permission to spend that $50. a week. Before I didnt. Exercise and laughter are always great medicine.
Sorry so long but I empathize with you. Im still behind the same amount in taxes, my personal finances are disgusting, hoping for summer to catch me back up. We are already getting alot busier. Whatever happens you already know what the worst thing that could happen is. I actually went to see a lawyer about bankruptcy. Would hate to do it, but if that and maybe the feeling of failing is the worst that can happen, we all know we are still so much luckier than a lot of people on the world. The whole time Im on my treadmill now, or even in the shower, first thing in the morning remember how lucky you are, I make a list. Im so grateful for my dog,health, family, life…
Hang in there youll be in my thoughts. Hope none of you guys out there need a tissue…