We live in uncertain times – that much is certain. But what does the future hold for the restaurant industry? Is it all doom and gloom, or can we look forward to positive times ahead?

Despite political turmoil and an economic backdrop that remains perilous, there are still reasons to be cheerful, therefore if you’re considering setting up a restaurant or have concerns about your existing business, don’t be disheartened.

The restaurant sector is still strong and a much-loved part of society, but to be a successful operator within it, you need to be prepared for the inevitable bumps in the road that you’ll encounter.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out what we believe to be the five key challenges facing the restaurant industry in 2017 and beyond.

1. Broader choice for customers

If truth be told, this has always been a challenge for restauranteurs, but the sheer breadth of choice for customers in the modern age is at times staggering.

With a significant number of new eating venues and operational styles entering the market seemingly every week, restaurant owners need to stay on the pulse of the latest trends and marketing opportunities. It’s why subscribing to blogs like this one should be a task you undertake at every given opportunity.

2. Continuing economic turmoil

We alluded to this in the intro, but there’s no escaping the fact that the economy remains on a knife edge. And, as dull as financial news may seem to those of us more interested in the business of serving great food and drink, it’s vital that we keep an eye on the changing conditions within the stock market.

This restaurant industry is just like any other at the moment – incredibly volatile. Consumers are still tightening their belts, but if you can create offerings that are both value for money and more creative than the usual menu tweak, you still have the power to convince them to head out for dinner a little more often.

3. Food and drink price hikes

Floods, drought and – yes – changing economic conditions will all continue to affect the price of raw ingredients and wet stock. Climate change is also something that is likely to impede the availability of crops.

This is why it pays to keep an open mind about suppliers. Shop around, even if in doing so you fear severing ties with businesses with whom you’ve long had great relationships. You’re running a business, after all.

4. Staff wages

If there’s one topic that is rarely out of the headlines, it’s the national living wage. The argument for raising the minimum wage is likely to rumble on, therefore restaurant owners will do well to ensure they’re paying at least the market rate for their staff.

Provide your employees with every opportunity to earn more, be it through tips or a tempting bonus structure. And, if the budget won’t allow that, turn to different methods of reward instead; an unexpected trip to the cinema will usually go down very well indeed and won’t be forgotten.

5. Online competition

Have you got an online table booking system in place? If not, you’re going to struggle to compete during 2017 and beyond. The online marketplace is booming for restaurants, but you have to be in and amongst it to take advantage.

Ensure your website includes everything required to tempt guests to book quickly and directly with you and throw as much time as you can into social media promotion on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Build your online persona – it will become absolutely invaluable.

Final thoughts

The world is still your oyster; you can absolutely attract more diners than you thought possible – even in times as challenging as they are now. Just follow our tips above and you’ll build a restaurant business that will be the envy of your competitors.

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