The Realities of Running a Food Business in the 21st Century


In today’s restaurant world, it’s not all about managing inventory and turning tables.

If you traveled back in time to a restaurant 20 years ago, maybe even 10, you might not completely recognize the wait staff’s processes, the décor, or even the patrons. Today’s food customers are connected and food conscious in ways that have never been seen before. Sites like Yelp have created a legion of food bloggers and everyone is a little more cognizant of—and picky about—what they’re eating.

As trends continuously change, owners are expected to run their restaurants while also keeping up with new industry developments. At the same time, it’s important that a restaurant remains true to its brand and doesn’t change for change’s sake based on today’s news. The key to staying competitive in the restaurant industry is to recognize where trends are heading and why, and to take advantage of the ones that make sense. To that end, make sure you understand the following essentials of running a successful restaurant in the 21st century.

Social media creates customers. And it can lose them

While restaurant owners are focused on building the ideal customer experience for their diners, customers are tweeting, blogging, and Facebooking about that experience to their followers. They’ll snap photos, post about what they ate (and what they didn’t like), and otherwise review your restaurant for their entire network with just a few clicks.
Smart restaurateurs are proactive about building and sustaining a social media presence to quickly assess what their customers are saying and to play a part in representing the brand online. This presence also serves as the first line of defense when responding to or improving the perception of a patron who had a bad experience.

Your restaurant is online, whether you want it to be or not

Regardless of whether you’ve developed a website or social media presence, your restaurant is evaluated somewhere online. Customers post reviews, opinions, and stories about their dining experiences for anyone to read. While diners enjoy sharing great experiences, they are even more inclined to share the bad ones. Don’t leave the online reputation of your establishment to the control of others.

Influence what your customers think about you by making your online presence known. At minimum, it will give you credibility. In today’s world, if patrons can’t find your website or social media page, they might doubt you really exist.

Make millennials your biggest fans

Dining out is a part of daily life for the millennial generation: 43 percent of every dollar they spend on food goes to restaurants. Compared to other generations, millennials account for the largest portion of food expenditures outside of the home. Thus, you need to have their support to be successful in today’s restaurant world.

The first step is understanding them. This generation practically grew up with a cellphone in their hand. If they want to know something, they use search engines to find it, another reason that your online presence and social media accounts are so essential. Tailor your branding and online accessibility to millennials, or lose your shot at making them loyal customers.

Invest in your employees

It’s imperative that you invest in your workers, given that restaurant turnover rates are consistently increasing. The only people as important as your customers are your employees. Be sure that they know you value them, and compensate them appropriately to solidify the notion. Training new employees takes time and money, a cost that rises exponentially the more you have to do it. If your workers feel valued and appreciated, they will be loyal – and reflect that value when they interact with your customers.

Margins are much too thin in the restaurant industry to make mistakes. In order to stay competitive, meet the realities of today’s environment and determine how you can mold them to fit your business model. Regardless of whether you like or fully understand the Internet and emerging technologies, many of your customers do. And inspiring employee loyalty with flexibility, positive feedback, and appropriate compensation will save you money, in the long run. Be sure you are constantly aware of industry trends, and adapt accordingly.

For more tips on navigating today’s restaurant business, purchase The Profit Recipe. This handy guide will help you recognize and capitalize on changes in the industry to boost your profits.

Cesar Quintero

Cesar Quintero

Foodpreneur / Coach / Speaker at Fit2Go
Cesar Quintero is the founder of Fit2Go, a healthy meal delivery service in South Florida, and the author of The Profit Recipe: Top Restaurant Trends and How to Use Them to Boost Your Margins.
Cesar Quintero