Monday, August 6, 2018

Rant: Restaurant Success & Failure

What is the secret to restaurant success?

Recently, Taberna de Haro celebrated their 20th Anniversary, a huge milestone, and during those years it has earned numerous raves and accolades. Though there have been some changes to the restaurant over the years, it has remained true to its original concept, serving Spanish food and wine. Taberna has the best Spanish wine list in the Boston+ area, and maybe even all of New England, and also they also offer a large list of Sherries, again more than any other restaurant in the area. I know that if I am in the area, I usually stop there.

On the other hand, Les Sablons, in Harvard Square, has closed, after only about one year in business.  The restaurant was owned by the same team that owns the successful Island Creek Oyster Bars and Row 34. Les Sablons received much acclaim and accolades, for both its cuisine and wine list. It would have seemed to have a bright future so its sudden closure is puzzling, and the owners have not publicly released any reasons for that closure. Why did it fail? We might never know the exact reasons.

Two well acclaimed restaurants. Why does one last for 20 years while the other lasts only 1?

I certainly don't have the answers, and I'm not sure anyone else does either. If the answers were that easy, then far less restaurants would close after a relatively short time. There are certainly though some known factors which contribute to a restaurant's success. At the most basic, a restaurant needs a sufficient number of customers and that would seem obvious. However, how do you bring in those customers? A good location is important, an area that might have good foot traffic, or where the restaurant is easily visible by those driving in the area. Customers need to know of a restaurant's existence, and some places can be open for years but some people still don't know anything about it.

Social media has a role too, helping to alert potential customers to the restaurant's existence, and providing reasons why customers should go there. That includes not just posting on social media but also interacting with potential customers, sharing their reviews, addressing their concerns, and being seen as a place that cares. It can also be as easy as having a restaurant website that clearly lists your hours. This weekend, I went to the website of a local pizza shop and their hours weren't listed. I placed an online order and didn't learn until almost an hour later, that the restaurant was closed all day. A major fail not to have their hours listed, and to allow me to order online despite their being closed.

Owning a restaurant isn't easy. It is more than just being a good chef. You need excellent business skills too, juggling your costs against your income, acquiring and managing your staff, dealing with landlords and investors, and much more. Many close within the first three years of operation. You would almost have to be a masochist to open a restaurant.

If you are a customer and love a restaurant, then please support them in whatever manner you can. Spread the word, telling your friends and family, telling strangers that want to know where to dine. Dine there as often as you can. Tip well. Try to understand restaurant costs and why they might need to raise their prices to stay in business. Even your favorite restaurant might close so do what you can to help them survive.

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