Why anticipated restaurant openings often fail to last

For over almost a decade now, the eruption of strategically marketed, much anticipated restaurant openings in every streetcorner of the globe with even the slightest hotspot potential seems unstoppable.

Behind these openings are often not the traditional restaurateurs with a long track record in hospitality pursuing a lifelong dream. Often these craftsmen are mere soldiers of marketing/tech savvy wizards with a crush on food and drinks, chasing the golden ticket.

In that sense, the master puppeteers of the restaurant industry have become the record label magnates of today. They craft the market, they control your culinary mindset, they dictate where and how you like to sit, drink and eat tonight. They carefully created the illusion of the restaurant as a social theatre, with the chef and sommelier as star performers, their knife and spoon as their guitar and drums. Mystique anticipated restaurant openings now carry the same mythical revolutionary impact as a new Bowie album release once enjoyed.

And despite an ever faster changing cultural environment, the next decade still seems illuminated and paved with gold for these new openings.

Yet, it is most probable that 70% of these openings won’t live to see their second decade. The lifespan of the current wave of ‘successful’ restaurants is becoming shorter than ever. Often after less than three years, these wonderboys have turned into sinking ships hanging on the drip of the same savvy serie hospitality entrepeneurs.

How come? And how can they stay?

Success before Consistency: the pitfalls

To get a grip on this phenomenon, let’s first have a closer look at the life cycle of a longterm successful restaurant.

Of course, this life cycle has changed somewhat over the years.

Here’s how it usually went for a successful restaurant thirty years ago.

  1. After years of hospitality training and practice you decided to make a move
  2. You gathered an eager committed team and opened a restaurant
  3. You delivered nonstop consistent top quality performance for months
  4. Word of mouth from visitors started spreading
  5. You started appearing in magazines and lists
  6. Your reputation went up as a succesful new hotspot
  7. And so the expectations
  8. And so the number of critics
  9. You kept consistancy and stayed up to date
  10. And without any disaster, misfortune or craziness, your restaurant business withstood the tests of at least the next three decades

Now today, here’s how it usually goes.

  1. You see a restaurant business opportunity irrelevant of your hospitality background
  2. You launch a NLP proof crowdfunding and social media campaign, gather an energised team of it-boys and girls and open a restaurant
  3. Word of mouth and social media buzz starts spreading
  4. You start appearing in online magazines and lists
  5. Your reputation goes up as a long anticipated opening and new hotspot
  6. And so the expectations
  7. And so the number of critics
  8. You deliver nonstop consistent top quality performance for months
  9. You keep consistancy and stay up to date
  10. And without any disaster, misfortune or craziness, your restaurant business will withstand the tests of at least the next decade

Same stages, different focus

These ten steps can be roughly considered as the ten stages for longterm success of a restaurant. As you see, the most crucial shift over the years is today’s indispensable need for creating a social media and blogger buzz before and during the opening months. This will kickstart success with a magnitude that could before only be achieved by months and sometimes years of consistency in delivering genuine quality of hospitality, service and food in the restaurant. No more gradual and steady development; it is now possible to stir such anticipation prior to opening that a thousand people will line up for the first shift without ever having heard of the chef or tasting a single serving.

So some restaurants are now basically creating and riding on instant opening success before they actually have proven that they’re worth it.

Happens for years now. Yet it has proven to be risky business.

For what happens when the buzz has settled, the next openings are already knocking you off stage, and the hungry crowd moves on to the next best thing in town?

Well then, you suddenly realize that, like in the old days, your raison d’être all depends on quality and consistency.

Consistency in delivering bare naked quality of hospitality, service and food.

Pursue and worship quality

or it will come and hunt you down

Quality. The backbone of your business. Day in, day out, over and over and over and over. Put it above all else and it becomes clear that only quality in delivering hospitality, service and food on the actual restaurant floor creates loyal existing fans, keeps them on board, creates new fans, and generates an ongoing stream of positive reviews.

Then you realize that despite the digital social tools of today, a buzz of the lasting kind can only be created within your restaurant walls. Persevere in delivering genuine quality on the floor and people will keep on spreading the word.

Why?

  • People will continue visiting more and more restaurants, the number of critics rise in numbers every year, and their tongue and pen is getting better and better trained and sharpened
  • The critics are therefore more and more insensitive for anticipated buzz and hollow overbranded experience. They start focusing on naked quality and consistency (bloggers will start posting after their third visit instead of their first)
  • Individual reviewers and review sites have grown up. The chatter gets filtered out. A positive review has become an online thankyou note for a genuinely satisfying hospitality performance. If there was no heart in the performance, if it was just a calculated smile, you’re not worth the review
  • Word of mouth of a restaurant savvy friend is still the no. 1 credible and objective reference between all the digital cheering. If that friend has enjoyed a genuine high quality hospitality experience in your restaurant, that word of mouth is worth more than a dozen online reviews. Just ‘I read that…’ is losing reference credibility. People look for actual first-hand accounts from people from their network. Just the buzz won’t keep filling your seats
  • The hype-sensitive mass that will pack your restaurant will pass on to the next hype in town anyway. If you stay humble, enjoy your success while not living it, stay genuinely caring for the wellbeing of every guest, and seeing all these guests as potential regulars, you will see the type of visitors gradually changing. If you focus only on quality and not on floating and surfing on the hype, you will welcome pure quality-focused customers instead of jumpfrogging hype-focused customers. And even so, welcome and embrace both those customers. Both can transform into your loyal regulars that will carry you into the future
  • Today, many know how to pop up a restaurant, seduce the eye, hire the right faces and streamline the process. However, the only ones standing out of that crowd are those who are building true connections with their guests. So a winning restaurant team should always carry and convey a true heart for hospitality. This starts and ends with the why of the restaurateur/entrepeneur

So

Focus only on quality and consistency

Stay humble

Remember your Why

Be grateful

Don’t live the hype

Don’t surf on your success

And be the winner of today

Ánd tomorrow

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