Published May 2, 2022

Three Pillars of Growing and Scaling a Food Business

Scaling a food business is tricky when you only have a small number of free hours per week to commit to growth. How do you know where to focus your time and resources with only minimal spare time? And with labor costs increasing, many food establishments have little choice but to strategically juggle increasing menu prices and still attract and retain customers.

In this article, we look at the three core pillars of successfully scaling a food operation, give you strategies to implement in your business, and provide you with a road map for growth.

1. Technology

‍Use online reservations and booking systems

Online reservations and booking systems aren’t the new kid on the block, but some establishments still rely on old-school telephone bookings and walk-ins.

Unless vintage is your style, there are significant benefits to implementing online reservations, including an opportunity to maximize your capacity, create personalized experiences for dine-in customers (who doesn’t love a surprise dessert on their birthday?), and give you valuable insights into customer behavior.

Partner with food delivery companies to expand your reach

We’ll level with you here. Food delivery companies aren’t always the greatest move for a food business due to high commission rates on orders and a general concern that consumers are becoming overly reliant on GrubHub, DoorDash,UberEats, and Post mate instead of visiting restaurants and food businesses in person.

However, if you’re looking for a short-term solution to expanding your reach and increasing consumer awareness, partnering with one of the apps mentioned above could give you a much-needed boost.‍

Upgrade POS

Upgrading your POS system to a modern-day solution helps drive revenue growth by allowing you to accept new payment methods (Apple Wallet, for example), access robust analysis of customer behavior, and take payments faster and easier with no maintenance costs.‍

Upgrade inventory management

How well you handle your inventory will reflect on your business’s success. If you’re looking to grow, assess your inventory management system and consider whether an upgrade is needed to help you better manage your stock and reduce costs.‍

Continue curbside collection and takeout options

During the COVID-19pandemic, many businesses pivoted to click and collect, takeout only, or delivery options to comply with government restrictions regarding in-person dining. And the trend caught on. 53% of consumers now say that ordering takeout is “essential” to their lifestyle. To compete in crowded markets, food businesses need to continue offering curbside collection and takeout options to help them drive revenue and consumer happiness.

Source: Unsplash,Rowan Freeman

Introduce automation

Restaurant automation helps you speed up the production process and streamline your BOH operations, giving your employees more time to focus on the customer. Automation also saves you money, cuts down on food waste, and improves quality control.‍

2. Marketing‍

Figure out your ideal customer

Before you consider launching any marketing campaigns, you must understand who you’re marketing to. Start by surveying your current customers to learn more about them. Where do they live? What’s their profession? What’s their household income? Where else do they like to eat? Questions like these will allow you to build out customer profiles, and help you understand precisely where your target audience hangs out, how they engage with restaurants, and what types of marketing they’re most receptive to.

For example, if you’re an old-fashioned steakhouse with a high-end clientele, don’t waste time creating Instagram Reels. This isn’t the marketing channel where your boomer generation audience typically hangs out, and your marketing efforts will go to waste.‍

Create thumb-stopping images for social

Everyone with an iPhone thinks they’re the next Annie Leibovitz, but the reality is that they’re really not. Photography is an art form, so treat it as such. Hire an experienced photographer from a site like Meero or ask around in your network for a recommended food stylist to create images that stop prospective customers from scrolling past your content on social media.‍

Source: Unsplash, Peter Bravo de los Rias

Upgrade your website

Firstly, if you don’t have a website for your food business, build one.

Secondly, if your website is a few years old or was created in a rush, it might be time for are fresh. Look for things like is it simple for the customer to find the information they’re looking for and make a reservation? Is your location and address found easily? Is the website optimized for mobile browsing? Is it optimized for organic search? Does it provide a good user experience? Small tweaks like these can quickly and easily impact your business’s growth trajectory.‍

Create a Google Business Profile

A Google Business Profile is a free directory listing run by Google but managed by you. Creating a profile allows you to enter essential information for customers to access, including website, phone number, and address. So when customers or potential customers are looking for information about your business, they’ll locate everything they need quickly and easily.‍

Sign up to Yelp

We know that review sites have a questionable reputation. There are negative reviews to manage from disgruntled customers, and ad spend to contend with to ensure your restaurant gets seen. However, a 2016 study by Harvard University Professor Michael Luca found that an increase of one star on a Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue, so it might be worth spending some time navigating the Yelp waters to encourage growth.‍

Create a newsletter

Newsletters are a low-cost way to keep customers and prospective customers informed about your food business and encourage them to visit your establishment. Newsletters are one of the best marketing strategies you can use because, unlike social media, where you’re constantly at the mercy of the algorithm, newsletters are an audience that you own. Unless someone unsubscribes, you have a direct channel to communicate with people who are actively interested in your business.

3. Customers‍

Customer retention is queen

Yes, cash flow is king, but customer retention is the golden ticket to sustainable growth. Food businesses need to keep customers coming back for more, and you can do this by providing an above and beyond in-house experience, serving high-quality food in good time, and always putting the customer first. Remember, it’s pretty much always more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer, so focus on retaining your current customer base.‍

Focus on the customer experience

To help frame this, Deloitte broke the customer experience down into five categories:

  1. Engage: The restaurant engages with the customer in a polite, positive, and friendly manner.
  2. Empower: The restaurant provides real-time information to help customers make informed decisions.
  3. Hear: The restaurant listens to and understands the customer’s situation and needs.
  4. Delight: The restaurant creates moments that surprise customers and exceed expectations.
  5. Know: The restaurant remembers the customer’s preferences and needs.

Following this blueprint will help create a memorable experience for the customer and leave a lasting impression that ensures repeat business.

Audit and update your menu

Keeping your menu fresh and exciting is a surefire way to encourage customers to visit your establishment. However, you don’t need to create an entirely new menu every time you want to update. Consider adding in new items alongside current favorites and high profit margin dishes to engage new customers and reengage existing loyal patrons.‍

Implement a loyalty program

Loyalty programs area fantastic way to encourage repeat customers due to the incentive for them to keep coming back to your business. Additionally, loyalty schemes encourage upsells and cross-sells, making them a significant driver to increase average order value (AOV).‍

By following the three pillars of technology, marketing, and customers, food businesses across the U.S can scale and grow, while retaining customers, driving new business, and build long-term sustainable success.