Let’s get this straight: there’s nothing wrong with running a chain restaurant. Far from it. You’re contributing to the economy, working in a wonderful industry and creating unforgettable dining experiences for guests.
There is, however, one unavoidable aspect of running such an establishment; it can all feel a bit ‘samey’. After all, your restaurant is identical to the one a few miles down the road, save for a slightly different table arrangement and longer bar. They look the same, offer the same menu and attract the same diners.
As far as your customers are concerned, this probably isn’t an issue at all. They visit because they like the chain’s food, ethos and surroundings. In essence, they’re happy, but as a budding, ambitious hospitality professional, you probably yearn for a bit more originality in the service you provide.
Good news – you can do this, no matter how closely you need to stick to brand guidelines! You just need to try the following:
Run it like your mum and dad would
Lots of diners enjoy the experience of eating home cooked food while out and about. If your restaurant already caters for such people with its menu – great, but if it falls short and you’re unable to modify the menu yourself, there’s something else you can try.
Get out there – speak to diners. Treat the floor as though it were your dining room and welcome people in. Check in on them during the meal and offer them a hearty goodbye when they’re finished.
Think back to how your parents used to run dinner time at home. If it remains a fond memory of your childhood, take the best bits and use them in your chain restaurant.
Put on live music
If you’ve got the space, why not hire in a band or two at weekends? Even better, make it clear that you’re supporting only local talent and you’ll be sure to draw in a sizeable crowd. The presence of live music can make any venue feel unique.
Mix up the drinks and offer local favourites
Depending on where your restaurant is located, you may be able to tap (if you’ll excuse the pun) into a favourite local beverage. There might be a certain beer that’s brewed in the area or a drink that is a long-held tradition for locals.
If such a drink (or range of drinks) exists, make it a prominent feature at the bar.
Tweak the menu
Be brave. If the bosses allow it, tweak the menu a little. This can range from different entrees to a wider variety of local side dishes. Sometimes, a tweak to the names of dishes can be enough – particularly if you can work a local reference or two into the brand’s dish names.
Ok, confession time: not every tip above will work for your chain restaurant, and we certainly recommend running the more enterprising ideas by your superiors before committing to them, but just one of the homely elements above could provide you with the reassurance you need that your operation is special.
Go on – stand out from the crowd!