The New York Times recently ran a piece about what happens to restaurants after being featured on the hit series “Restaurant: Impossible” on Food Network. The results were varied: some restaurants have showed improved bottom lines, while others have since shuttered. Yet most of the makeover-ees had one result in common: the system changes were so extreme, their core customer base was often alienated and discouraged. Restaurant management either embraced the changes (and wooed a new clientele), or reverted to their tried-and-true in an attempt to retain their regulars. Neither situation is ideal.
There are ways to revamp aesthetics and menus without discouraging regulars from returning. It is possible to attract new customers and increase sales without losing your base. Rebranding or tweaking your restaurant’s image doesn’t mean compromising its original, authentic core.
“Restaurant: Impossible” is a great reminder that restaurant owners shouldn’t wait until desperation creeps in and the only answer seems to be a drastic makeover executed by a TV chef. There are safe, calculated steps management can take to save a floundering restaurant before it’s too late. Performing regular assessments — either internal or third party — can be a way to keep your business healthy.
Should you find yourself in a similar position, choose those with a level-headed approach and the resources to see you through. After all, TV ratings won’t save your restaurant.