Is Ambience a Competition Beater?
First ask “Who is your Competition.”
This question used to be a lot easier to answer as you only had to look for other restaurants in your market segment or locale to identify what you would call a business in competition with yourself.
But today the landscape has changed, in addition to the competitors we all recognize, there are new factors entering into competition with your restaurant that you may not have considered.
The eating and drinking at home market is now very well established. When people on a tight budget evaluate the cost of eating out as compared to eating at home there is more than the cost of the meal to be taken into consideration. Added costs such as Gasoline, Cab Fare, Child Care, Valet or Public Parking, Tips & Gratuities etc. All or some of these costs are applicable before the cost of the actual food eaten, and since most grocers during 2016 have been lowering food costs, where restaurants continue to increase prices by circa 3%, potential restaurant customers have the option to just buy more groceries because they’re a better deal. This obviously comes under the realms of competition, as it takes away dining opportunities from restaurants that are not delivering value (at whatever price point) great service, and a compelling reason to visit.
The preparation of food for the home chef is now easier than ever with the advent of internet recipes and YouTube step by step instructions and of course the chilled- cook ready meals that are everywhere and only take minimal skills to prepare, not to mention the meal in box delivery companies like Blue Apron who supply fresh ingredients with complete cooking instructions to your door, and are now gaining momentum.
High retail sales and industry numbers point to a healthy dining out economy and like for like sales are following this trend for the time being. But what is clear is that while pricing and menu portion modification can see dollar sales and margins keeping stable, customer traffic and foot fall is declining, especially in the highly competitive casual dining sector which makes for a potential problem for the future.
So what can be done? If I ally my food mantra to the problem, namely when I go out to eat I want good quality, fresh food, that has an accredited traceable source, made from scratch by someone who has a great knowledge of food and food production, and knows not only what that meal should look and taste like, but has an understanding of health and hygiene practices. All of this should be delivered at a fair price point and better than I could cook myself at home. Then that is a great place to start. Restaurants are fantastic places but sometimes forget about other factors beside the food that are just as critical to the success of the diner’s experience, restaurants need to have a compelling reason for customers to visit and return which can negate or reduce the argument for the customer to stay at home.
When a customer buys a steak from a butcher, that is all they get, a steak. But when a customer buys a steak dinner from a restaurant, think of all that goes with it, you are not just buying the dinner, you should be getting the knowledgeable and attentive waiting staff, perfectly prepared food, a warm (or cool) comfortable environment, extensive selection of wine, beer or beverages. Not forgetting the big ones AMBIENCE & ATMOSPHERE.
Ambience & Atmosphere set the stage, encompassing factors such as, lighting, music, artwork and design. Food of course is the focal point, but what makes customers choose one restaurant or bar over another, or indeed venture out of their home? In most cases when value, offer, service and quality are a given, ambience & atmosphere are the missing common denominators which will either attract customers to your restaurant or the lack of them, drive those customers to your competitors or opt to stay at home.
The Orlando Food Critic and our associated services are uniquely placed to assist your business by taking advantage of our operational assessments and consultancy to perhaps lead you to new ways of working and vision. Our team of professional restaurant consultants is ready to assist you with any aspect of your restaurant or bar operation, and let’s face it there is a lot to cover.
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