As Guest Habits Return, Focus on Independent Restaurant Strengths

In the history-spanning and never-ending competition between chain restaurants and independents, the conditions for independents today look more favorable than at any time since before the pandemic.

Why? Because chains can’t create the memorable and authentic experiences the independents can.

And those are the experiences customers want.

Chain restaurants’ advantages – those attained through capitalization, technology, and marketing – just don’t feel as important anymore.  


Normalization – it’s a nice place to be after shrinkflation and that pandemic-related cessation.

The more you talk to successful owners of multi-unit restaurant companies these days, the more you understand that people feel like we’re in a state of normality and stability – and those are two words they have not spoken for years.

In a normalized environment, quality food, beverage, service, and hospitality dominate.

Restoring guest count and profitability identify as your connected two-pronged priorities.  

This is a huge opportunity for you if you handle it correctly.

So take advantage as you head toward the end of the year and set yourself up for a great Q4 when guests spend accordingly.

What to Focus on Now

  1. Service and hospitality. Today’s guest would rather go out less often than trade down. The days of wild spending by people just happy to be out have concluded. Elevate and focus on service and hospitality to make sure that guests keep your restaurants in their personal rotation and increase that frequency when they compare you to other options.
  2. Menu items. Flavor, taste, visual appeal, quality. Review all items and your ability to create them consistently. Highlight your best and improve them. Drop offerings that don’t separate you from the competition. Make sure each table’s meal ends with memories of outstanding food and beverages – and a few pictures on their phones and social media of what you worked so hard to produce.
  3. Margins. As costs of labor and food become more stable and inflation slows, make sure you impact margins. Recovering that extra point or point-and-a-half that everyone complained about ceding to economic conditions makes a huge difference. Save a quarter of a point here and there: Those quarter-points add up to real money.

Except for operators who remain highly entertained by disruption, most sane people would choose normalization over disruption.

I’m not a clinician, so I will pass on commenting on the former.

As someone whose life work is dedicated to advising, coaching, and consulting with successful owners of independent restaurant companies, I’m here to remind you to focus on service and hospitality, menu items, and your margins and make incremental gains as you get ready to finish the year in a strong way that sets you up for greater success than ever before.

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