As the restaurant industry grows —and the number of people eating out eclipses the number of people eating at home — there are plenty of opportunities for restaurants to find success. But as a restaurant professional, it’s not always easy to know what those opportunities are.
Toast surveyed 1,253 restaurant owners, operators, and staff and 1,030 restaurant guests across the U.S. to understand their thoughts on what makes a great restaurant, the technology trends driving change, and where the industry is headed next. In some cases, Toast compared the answers of restaurant professionals and guests to see how they agree — or disagree — about common restaurant practices. The Restaurant Success in 2019 industry report from Toast is organized by the steps of the restaurant experience: what happens before, during, and after a guest comes to dine. This report also looks at staffing and back-office best practices.
Restaurant professionals ranked high operating and food costs and hiring staff as their top challenges to running a restaurant, with 52% citing high operating and food costs and 51% citing hiring staff. Training staff came in third with 35% of restaurateurs selecting it as a top challenge. When it comes to training new hires, the majority of restaurants (68%) use an employee handbook, but only 19% use online training and only 36% have a formal 30-day check-in. These resources are essential to hiring and retaining great teams. For example, Andreas Xenohristos, Director of Operations at Cava Mezze, in Washington, D.C., trains his staff with videos and easy-to-read articles, saying, “It’s so simple that you can read a few sentences and understand what you’re doing.”
Your Product Needs to Be as Good As Your Marketing
Why do guests choose a restaurant? 72% of guests said quality of food was important. 65% of restaurant professionals agreed, but they ranked value (i.e. well-priced menus) as the next most important criteria. Guests, however, ranked taste and flavor preferences higher. What’s the solution? Successful restaurant professionals choose quality ingredients wisely. These restaurateurs select flavors and tastes that accent main dishes so their guests enjoy great meals but they don’t sacrifice their bottom lines. For example, owner Angela Tse of Morgan & York, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, sources local produce to provide natural and artisan-quality meals to guests: “You’re supporting the local economy but you’re also getting the freshest ingredients. We want to provide our customers with the best products we can.”
Guest Technology Is Booming
Guests listed wifi availability, online reservations, and consumer ordering programs as restaurant technologies most important to their guest experience. Alternatively, restaurant professionals listed gift card programs, online ordering programs, and wifi availability as restaurant technologies most important to their businesses. In this case, restaurant professionals and guests are pretty aligned on expectations. The key, however, is that successful restaurants meet their guests’ expected requirements (wifi, online reservations, and ordering) while also making loyalty programs a frictionless experience and offering vouchers and promotions to transform those guests into loyal customers. Take Moonie’s Burger House in Cedar Park, Texas. A seamless online ordering program sends their online takeout orders directly to the kitchen, improving order accuracy and reducing frustrating phone calls. By combining a loyalty program with 3,000+ engaged customers, Moonie’s Burger House has cultivated a community in Cedar Park, incentivizing guests to return again and again.
Toast runs this report every year because they care about the success of the restaurant industry. The mission is all about bringing restaurants into the future. It’s about democratizing technology to empower everyone in our community to succeed. It’s about running great businesses and chasing dreams. But more than anything, it’s about empowering the restaurant community to delight their guests, do what they love, and thrive.