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QuickList: 7 common traits of successful indie restaurants


Even though chain restaurants continue to technically encroach on independent restaurants, it's no secret the entrepreneurial indie restaurant is back. Be it the health and green movements or more of an economic shift towards local economies and communities, people are eating in their on neighborhoods and they want to spend money where they feel it will benefit their friends and families. 

ShiftZen chooses to work mostly with local indie restaurants for this reason, and we'll continue to help independent eateries grow and compete. Below, let's check out a QuickList of the top seven traits and characteristics of highly successful independent and independently-run restaurants. 

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1. They know their numbers. How can you know your business if you don't know your financial stats? Know where you stand at all time, and have your financial records kept within reach of your managers at all times. (ShiftZen helps with this with daily built-in reporting.)

2. They know how to work with people. The restaurant business is all about management, but specifically for locally owned establishments, it's vital to keep good relationships and low turnover with servers and staff. "This ain't Applebees," as one might say, and you have to keep a good rapport with your employees, not just your customers. It might be easy to hire a waiter or two, but remember, fire a few too many locals, and it could hurt you in the long run. (Here's a list of 12 tips from awrestaurant.org.)

3. Kitchen kitchen kitchen. Every chef knows his bottom line begins and ends with how efficiently he runs his kitchen, and this is even more important with smaller restaurants which might experience more variable business. Remember the principle of fewer vendors and invoices to handle. This will result in fewer invoices, salespeople and paperwork to deal with, and instead of getting lots of small deliveries, get loads in fewer large deliveries, which translates into less time receiving and restocking functions.

4. They don't worry about price. Good restaurants let the food speak for themselves, there's a reason chains have to spend so much on advertising: their product normally stinks. Good indie restaurants don't get sucked into pricing battles and devaluing their own fresh product. 

5. Contact their customers outside their walls. Newsletters, social media, mobile -- in 2014 you can't let your competitors beat you here, especially if you don't have a sizable marketing budget (or none at all). Good indie restaurants use these often free means of communications to find returns and potential customers without having to burn a lot of calories in the process. 

6. Leadership know their roles. This isn't the Dallas Cowboys. Good indie owners know who to hire and when to back off. No corporate structures and wasted meetings here. Indie restaurants have to get things done. Getting too caught up in the day-to-day can make it hard to owners to step back an evaluate long term goals. 

7. Don't expand too quickly. Chains are famous for racing to open a new location to squeeze out competitors and maximize short term profits. Indie restaurants of course don't operate this way, and shouldn't. When you think it's time for a new location, maybe rethink the updates and repairs that could be made to your current establishment. Or, maybe it's time for that patio you've always wanted? Reinvesting into your already help properties will bolster your investment power in the future when it's time to expand responsibly. 

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