8 Tips For Building The Perfect Modern Restaurant

What is separating the overflowing, rapid-turnover, stellar restaurants in your city from those that can’t seem to retain customers? Are owners stubborn, or slow to adapt to emerging modern trends in the food service industry? When taking a deeper look into current-day restaurants that are thriving, a number of similarities exist between them, no matter the cuisine of the business.

Whether it’s a D.C. beer garden or the hottest new chicken joint in Kentucky, many modern restaurants are largely doing the same things. As a general rule when it comes to restaurant food, less is more: fewer items on the menu and fewer types of food offered. 

This allows restaurants to specialize in one flavor of cuisine, and develop signature dishes eaters can’t get elsewhere. If you’re overwhelmed by the size of the menu as a customer, it’s a bad sign. How often does this burger place really cook these white mussels? These are questions to avoid. 

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants will likely never fully recover to their pre-pandemic levels, so restaurateurs need to pull out all the stops to make sure they’re maximizing their business in this new normal.  

Below are eight tips to boost your restaurant’s atmosphere and help pack your dining room with hungry patrons. 

  1. Smaller Menus 

As stated above, having a smaller menu allows you to do what you do really well. Having a few tapas or small plates, a handful of burgers, sandwiches, or other entrees with a small number of side dishes, and maybe a dessert, is all you need. Or for a Mexican restaurant, a relatively small lineup of creative tacos and chips and dips can be a cash cow. Pair that with a decent draft beer and cocktail selection, and you’ll be raking it in. Be sure to include vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free customers in your menu construction. 

Not only does this allow you to specialize, but it’s more efficient to not have to make 30 different items. Training your new employees becomes easier, costs are cut because you need fewer supplies, and mistakes in the kitchen are cut because you’re only making a handful of items over and over again. Also, using fewer ingredients cuts your food waste, and improves your bottom line as you don’t need to order as much. 

  1. Hanging Lights & Outdoor Seating 

Since restaurants and nightlife took a big hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, people are eager for a fun night out. Rooftop beer gardens and a string of hanging lights are very in right now. Slap a neon sign somewhere on your patio and you’ll have hipsters flocking to your left and right. 

For a little extra icing on the cake, having a gas fire pit or fake torches around invokes a calm comfortable atmosphere that customers won’t want to leave. Misters or outdoor heaters for seasonal weather can ensure your customer base doesn’t drop off when it’s too hot or too cold out. 

  1. Choose A Consistent Color Scheme 

When branding your restaurant, choose a consistent color scheme to attach to your brand. According to Toast, one of the leading online order apps, color accounts for nearly 80 percent of brand recognition. Millennials and Generation Z customers are looking for suave, beautiful atmospheres to pair with delicious food. 

Rustic simplicity is big right now as well when you consider how many garages have turned into indoor/outdoor breweries, or old brick buildings with rooftops have turned into hip restaurants. 

  1. Introduce Plants, Turf, Greenery 

If there’s one thing young people seem to love in 2022, it’s planted. Consider dumbing down your restaurant decor so you really only have a color or two dominating the space, then introduce some plants here and there, or a green turf area in your beer garden to pair with hanging lights. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing, but it indicates a natural and sustainable approach to your restaurant’s brand. 

Pairing brown wood structures and green plants makes for a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy food and drinks, particularly in outdoor seating areas. 

  1. Happy Hour 

Who doesn’t love finding the best deals for happy hour? Many restaurants have found success in introducing happy hour specials throughout the week. U street happy hour is an example of a street that does happy hour very well.  Not only does it bring in more customers on a Tuesday night than you’d have otherwise, but it’s an opportunity to show some of your best dishes and cocktails for a discounted price. 

This way, customers are more likely to come back on a regular basis, and it can allow you to charge more for regular menu items. Knocking a few bucks off your house margarita or appetizer favorites can help boost checks and make your employees more money as well. 

  1. Promote Sustainability 

Young people are more attracted to restaurants that feel environmentally friendly or show a focus on sustainability. This can be using only local and natural ingredients, eliminating paper straws, or using compostable to-go boxes. 

This can also reduce your operations costs: reducing waste means saving money. Also, using sustainable and local ingredients allow you to charge more for your menu items. Socially conscious customers tend to have more money in their pockets and are more careful about how they spend it. Get them on your good side and you could develop a base of regular customers that love your product. Farm-to-table practices are 

  1. Pay Your Workers More 

Customers today are attracted to restaurants that loudly voice their support for their employees. Adding a guaranteed gratuity for the kitchen or paying servers on top of their tips goes a long way with your employees, and your customers will react well to workers taking pride in their jobs. 

Eliminate the high-turnover stigma in restaurants by valuing your employees to ensure they stick around. If your chefs are passionate about your food and feel comfortable introducing their ideas to ownership, your product will reflect their contentment. Pay your servers a living wage so that on an off-night, they aren’t considering leaving the field altogether. 

  1. Be Present On Social Media, Delivery Apps

Having a strong online presence will have your customers thinking about your food away from your restaurant. Instagram is likely the most important app to utilize. Have high-quality photos of your food, cocktails, and space to draw customers in and have their bellies rumbling from their work desks. 

Get with the times and get on DoorDash, Postmates, or Uber Eats. Many restaurants were forced to go this route during the pandemic, but trends show even as the pandemic wanes, habits developed during it will continue to dominate the industry. This can not only expand your business but advertise your product to those surfing the app unsure of what they want to eat.

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