If you’ve put in the work to start your own restaurant, and got through all of the planning, hiring and organisational tasks, the only thing left to do is to open the doors, right? Wrong. A soft launch is one of the most beneficial things you can do as a new business and offers so many ways to improve and tighten up your business before you officially open. Read on to find out why you should hold a soft launch for your new restaurant.
So what exactly is a restaurant soft opening?
A soft opening is an opportunity for business owners to test out their products and services on real customers, take feedback and then make any adjustments. It is an unofficial launch that happens before a business is open to the public and can help a business owner to identify any areas of improvement needed to help the service run smoothly.
A soft launch can look different depending on how prepared you are and what you want to get out of it. It may be that you hold a quiet trial run period before a grand opening, or you might choose to have an invite-only event where you invite media representatives and influencers to help to promote your new restaurant before you open properly.
By referring to this time as a soft opening, you are letting people know that you are still working on refining parts of your business, and people are much more forgiving when it comes to long wait times or any mistakes. Make sure you take note of any mistakes or issues that do arise throughout the soft launch period and work hard to air them out before your official opening date. To help you with deciding on what changes to make and how you are going to appeal to your intended customer base once you have fully opened up, you may want to look into restaurant consulting services. They can help with planning, operational challenges, or are just there for any level of help you may need to ensure that the business that you’ve put your heart and soul into will become a success.
Why are soft openings useful?
Soft openings are useful as they offer a trial run for all those great restaurant ideas you have come up with and help you to create a buzz around your new restaurant. It is also a great way to predict what the most popular products are likely to be, as well as find any issues, big or small, in your service. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for your restaurant’s grand opening.
- Create a Buzz: A soft opening is a great way to help generate attention for your restaurant before you officially open your doors. The level of attention you get will vary depending on who you invite to the soft launch, if you want to really amp up the hype for your new business consider inviting media representatives and influencers. Whatever approach you take, make sure to market your business across a variety of platforms to get the word out about your new restaurant.
- Predict demand: Soft openings are a great way to help you to anticipate the most and least popular products, the busiest and quietest periods for the business. This can help you anticipate both stock and staffing needs so that you are working to the most efficient schedule. To get an idea of which menu items might be popular, it might be a good idea to use a commissary kitchen for a while (search “commissary kitchen near me” to find one) so that you can practice meeting demand before having to perfect your customer service. Offer your food for takeaway only and you’ll soon learn which items are popular and which are less so.
- Create future profits: Having customers along for a soft launch is a great opportunity to hand out coupons or encourage people to register for a loyalty program that will convince them to come back to your restaurant. Regular customers are incredibly important in the hospitality industry, so generating these as early as possible is a great way to boost your business and start off strong.
- Perfect your menu: even if you think your menu is perfect, a soft launch will help you to identify any problems you may not have thought of, such as how long each individual menu item tasks to make, how customers react to each dish and which are the most and least popular. This can help you tweak your menu before launching to make it the best it can be.
- Identify anything that isn’t working: Each team in your business will have been working separately until doors open, so a soft opening is a great time to identify any issues in communication or service that may not have come up previously. It can be a really useful way of understanding the dynamics of your restaurant and your staff before doors open properly.
How to make the most of your soft opening
Once you’ve held your soft opening, get the most out of it by gathering feedback, asking customers for advice and building a strong marketing list. Invite everyone who attends your soft opening to sign up for marketing emails and loyalty programs to ensure repeat customers, and offer a variety of ways for them to leave feedback, such as review cards, an email address and by talking to them yourself. Encourage customers to be critical so that you can make any changes that are needed, and take everything they suggest seriously – they are here to help! Use your soft opening to perfect your service and make sure that any issues or kinks are eliminated before your restaurant opens properly.
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