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Improve Restaurant Operations: 11 Tips from Food Industry Experts


Running a successful restaurant goes beyond serving delicious food. It requires effective restaurant operations that encompass various aspects, from staff management and menu development to marketing strategies and customer service. With the ever-evolving food industry and increasing customer expectations, it is crucial for restaurant owners and operators to continuously improve their operations to stay competitive and thrive.

In this article, we have gathered insights and tips from food industry experts to help you enhance your restaurant’s operations. These expert recommendations cover a wide range of restaurant operations management. Implementing these proven strategies can help you streamline your operations, boost customer satisfaction, and drive profitability.

What Does Restaurant Operations Mean?

Restaurant operations refer to the day-to-day management and activities involved in running a restaurant efficiently and effectively. It encompasses a wide range of tasks and processes, including:

  • Menu development
  • Inventory control
  • Procurement
  • Restaurant scheduling
  • Quality control
  • Customer service
  • Marketing 
  • Technology integrations
  • Maintaining health and safety standards 

Successful restaurant operations require careful planning, coordination, and implementation of strategies to ensure smooth operations, exceptional customer experiences, and profitability. By focusing on various aspects of restaurant operations, owners and operators can optimize their business, enhance productivity, and create a positive dining environment for their customers.

How to Improve Restaurant Operations: 11 Tips from Experts

We’ve asked experts from 10 different organizations to give us their best advice on how to make a restaurant run better. We’ve managed to gather invaluable insights that we’re extremely proud to share with you today. Here’s what we’ve learned.

An Extra Tip from UpMenu to Get Us Started

Before we dive into the 10 tips by restaurant experts from all over the industry, we’d like to share what we’ve learned has been the most important part for our customers: a comprehensive online ordering system.

An ordering system that ties together all of your business operations is probably one of the most important tools in your toolkit. Having your online ordering system, website, mobile app, loyalty programs, and all marketing tools and analytics in one place brings immediate value. 

Choosing your platform is a long-term decision; the last thing you want to do is switch platforms in the middle of the fiscal year. Do thorough research and choose your restaurant ecosystem carefully.

Tip 1: The Importance of Restaurant Marketing & Advertising Strategies

Effective advertising strategies are crucial for businesses to promote their products or services, reach their target audience, and drive sales. Well-executed advertising campaigns help build brand awareness, communicate unique selling points, and create a positive brand image. 

restaurant operation: restaurant marketing: example photo

By utilizing appropriate advertising channels, crafting compelling messages, and targeting the right audience, businesses can maximize their reach, engage customers, and ultimately achieve their marketing objectives, contributing to increased visibility, customer acquisition, and business growth.

Focus your marketing efforts on search engine traffic before other channels. 80% of your customers are looking for restaurants in Google search and Google maps. Optimize there as a priority. Make sure your place is first in the results lists when people search for “restaurants in [city name]”. Then optimize for other things you offer like happy hour, brunch, private dining.

You can’t pay your rent with likes and follows.

Brian Nagele, CEO, Restaurant Clicks

Tip 2: Quality Control

Implementing robust quality control measures is essential for restaurants to ensure consistency in food preparation, maintain high standards of taste and presentation, and uphold customer satisfaction, leading to a positive reputation and repeat business. 

For quality control, consider creating a restaurant opening and closing checklist to better-manage day-to-day processes. Here’s what Daniel Bendas, Managing Partner at Synergy Consultants had to say about it.

Executing consistent systems and process designed to ensure top notch execution are key to maintaining a high level of quality over time. Some basic examples include:

Product Procurement – be sure to buy the best raw materials possible within the framework of your concept. Also be sure that all product is received in accordance with your product specifications and meet your quality standards. If not, refuse the product and insist on only the best.

Production Sysems & Recipes – Being sure to prepare only the quantities needed for expected volumes based on tested shelf lives, storage capacities, etc. ensure the freshest products possible. Also, well written recipes, consistently followed ensure that all products are prepared to your standards.

Team & Management Checklists – verify throughout the day that all products meet your quality standards relative to flavor, temperature, texture and color.

Final Checkpoint – A Kitchen Expeditor and/or the Service Team should have the final say, and be the final ‘checkpoint’ prior to delivery of any food or beverage products to the guest. If there is any concern that a product is not up to standards, the problem should be investigated and corrected. DON’T LET THE GUEST BE THE FINAL JUDGE!!

Daniel Bendas, Managing Partner, Syngergy Consultants

Tip 3: Menu Development and Design

Menu development plays a vital role in the success of restaurants as it involves creating a well-curated selection of dishes that cater to customer preferences, reflect the restaurant’s identity, and balance profitability and culinary creativity. Thoughtful menu development enhances the dining experience, attracts customers, and drives revenue growth. This is best done when using a single menu management software and keeping everything in one place.

A well-developed menu is essential not only in reducing restaurant costs, but also visually communicates the restaurant’s brand, guides customer choices, and impacts the overall dining experience. An effective menu design can entice customers, enhance readability, and optimize profitability for the restaurant. Here’s what we learned from Dylan Holtzhausen.

The often underestimated art of restaurant menu design can lead to generic menu content across digital channels where hungry customers are looking. As customers seek easy access to both online and traditional dine-in menus across digital channels, a significant gap between static and dynamic menu management becomes evident.

Many restaurant owners overlook the critical need to maintain and optimize these menus, causing daily sales losses making it vital for restaurant owners to invest equal effort into enhancing online channels for walk-in, pre-order, and reservation services as they do for delivery options.

Although leading design platforms can facilitate menu creation, they don’t cater to the continual updates and requirements of maintaining a beautifully branded menu. Companies are striving to address this challenge, bridging the gap between creating visually appealing menus and incorporating real-time data.

Dylan Holtzhausen, Co-founder & CEO at Menuzen

Find out more about how to make a restaurant menu.

Tip 4: Reservation Systems

restaurant operation: reservation systems: example photo

Reservation systems are invaluable for restaurants. They allow for efficient table management, reduce wait times, improve customer satisfaction, and optimize operations. By including reservation system and streamlining the reservation process, these systems enhance efficiency and help restaurants deliver exceptional dining experiences. 

Embracing technology is crucial in today’s fast-paced restaurant industry, but there’s still value in traditional methods. Installing a landline for taking bookings, orders, and inquiries can be a game-changer for streamlining restaurant operations. A dedicated landline eliminates the potential barriers associated with technological glitches or internet connectivity issues that can impede online systems. 

With a landline, customers can easily make reservations or place orders, knowing that their requests will be received promptly and accurately. While online platforms and mobile apps have their place, a dedicated landline ensures seamless communication and provides a personal touch that customers appreciate. By integrating the traditional with the contemporary, a restaurant can optimize its operations and create an exceptional dining experience for its valued patrons.

Sam Molony, Senior Marketing Specialist, CommunityPhone

Tip 5: Waste Management

Effective waste management is crucial for restaurants to minimize environmental impact, maintain cleanliness, and comply with regulations, ensuring sustainable operations and positive customer experiences. 

restaurant operation: waste management: example photo

We asked David Jackson, Director of Marketing & Public Affairs at Winnow Solutions, to share his expertise in the subject.

At Winnow, we found that kitchens typically waste 5-15% of the food they buy – that’s data from over 1,000 kitchens. So, we put technology to work to help chefs see exactly what’s ending up in the trash. Armed with this knowledge, they can make smarter choices that save money and reduce waste. It’s a win-win: good for the budget, great for the planet.

David Jackson, Director of Marketing & Public Affairs at Winnow.

Tip 6: Health and Safety Regulations

Food safety and sanitation are of utmost importance in the foodservice industry. Adhering to proper food safety practices ensures the protection of public health, prevents foodborne illnesses, maintains the reputation and credibility of the establishment, and complies with regulatory requirements. Maintaining high standards of food safety and sanitation creates a safe and hygienic environment, instills customer trust, and promotes a positive dining experience.

restaurant operation: health and safety: example photo

Food safety compliance is evaluated through data from monitoring logs, checklists, and other documentation. This is a base for effective analysis and enhancement of areas that need more attention. Thanks to technology, food businesses now have easier and cheaper ways to measure and ensure compliance with food safety regulations. It is important for businesses to have a customized Food Safety Management System (FSMS) to meet safety standards and match their operations perfectly.

Katrin Liivat, CEO of FoodDocs

Tip 7: Preparation and Service

Proper preparation and service practices are vital in maintaining food safety and ensuring customer well-being. Following rigorous protocols during food preparation, such as proper cooking temperatures, safe storage, and hygienic handling, minimizes the risk of foodborne illnesses. Additionally, implementing safe service practices, such as using clean utensils, preventing cross-contamination, and practicing good personal hygiene, further safeguards the health and satisfaction of customers, upholding the reputation and success of food establishments.

Cleanliness First: Cleanliness is paramount in any professional kitchen. Begin by investing in commercial-grade, food-safe cleaning solutions and sanitizing wipes, designed to kill harmful bacteria and prevent cross-contamination. Equip your kitchen with a high-quality, three-compartment sink for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing dishes. Keep a dedicated set of cleaning tools solely for food preparation areas to avoid any cross-contamination. Also, consider a professional-grade produce washer for your fruits and vegetables to remove residues and potential pathogens.

Preparation is Key: Start with investing in a professional set of sharp knives for efficient and precise cuts. Proper knife skills can drastically improve your speed and safety in the kitchen. Portioning tools like digital scales, measuring cups, and portion scoops will help you achieve consistency and control food costs. Consider utilizing high-quality prep tables with integrated ingredient bins or use prep containers with lids. They help in organizing your workspace, storing pre-portioned ingredients, and keeping them fresh. A well-stocked and organized cold station (refrigerator/freezer) can also enhance your efficiency.

Consistency with Recipes: Digitizing your recipes with management software allows all your staff to access them in real-time and guarantees consistency. This is even more important if your restaurant has multiple branches. The software can also help manage ingredient inventories, reducing waste. To maintain consistency in the cooking process, using a combi oven can be invaluable. It allows you to steam, bake, and roast, with precise temperature and humidity control for each dish.

Staff Training: Staff training is critical to maintaining consistency. Use online training platforms to provide standardized culinary courses to your staff. Moreover, a comprehensive POS system integrated with a KDS can guide your kitchen staff, helping them follow the order of preparation and cooking times correctly. It also promotes communication between the kitchen and front-of-house staff, ensuring a smoother service flow.

Quality Check: Finally, every dish that leaves your kitchen should be a testament to your restaurant’s quality standards. Use single-use tasting spoons for hygienic taste tests. Keep a selection of high-quality seasonings and spices on hand, allowing you to make adjustments on the fly. A high-resolution food thermometer is also a must to ensure all dishes are cooked to the correct temperature.

Implementing these detailed steps and tools into your startup restaurant operations will not only improve efficiency but also guarantee a consistent, high-quality dining experience for your customers. These actions will help your restaurant thrive in a competitive market.

“Having the right tools and processes in place is critical to the success of your restaurant. From commercial-grade cleaning solutions for utmost hygiene to cutting-edge recipe management software for consistency, every element plays a vital role. Invest in quality, train your staff well, and never compromise on taste and quality. Success in the restaurant industry isn’t just about great food—it’s about great experiences, every time.”

Sabina Campbell, E-commerce Catalog & SEO Director at Restaurant Supply

Tip 8: How Can Your Restaurant Be More Eco-friendly?

restaurant operation: how to be eco friendly: example photo

Restaurants can adopt eco-friendly practices by implementing sustainable initiatives such as reducing food waste through portion control and proper inventory management, sourcing local and organic ingredients, using energy-efficient equipment, and promoting recycling and composting programs, ultimately minimizing their environmental impact.

A restaurant that shows an effort in producing novel products from local ingredients gives its customers a feeling that it’s part of something bigger. When I visited Kimbal Musk’s restaurant The Kitchen in Colorado the thing I remember most is the homemade ginger ale made from a ginger bug. 

Imagine a menu that doesn’t serve cola or commercial products? Imagine a menu that serves food in season? Imagine a menu that finds novel ways to use all parts of a plant? Local and plant-based menus are sexy. Sustainability is sexy.

Karin Kloosterman, Editor at Green Prophet

Tip 9: Reducing Food Waste

Restaurants can reduce food waste by implementing strategies such as careful menu planning, monitoring inventory levels, offering customizable portion sizes, donating excess food to charitable organizations, and implementing creative ways to utilize food scraps for other purposes like composting or creating new dishes. 

restaurant operation: reducing food waste: example photo

These efforts not only contribute to sustainability but also help improve profitability and minimize environmental impact.

We’ve asked Caroline Hissong, a communications & marketing manager at We Don’t Waste to share her experience with us.

A great way to reduce food waste while giving back to the community is to get involved with local food recovery and food rescue organizations. In many cities, local nonprofits will recover surplus food for free to redistribute to community members experiencing food insecurity. 

Many food recovery organizations have the ability to pick up food as often as once a week, which can massively help reduce food waste at no cost to your restaurant.

Caroline Hissong, Communications & Marketing Manager at We Don’t Waste

Tip 10: Point-of-Sale System (POS)

restaurant operation: pos-system: example photo

Point of Sale (POS) systems are vital tools for businesses as they streamline transactions, provide valuable sales and inventory data, and enhance operational efficiency, ultimately improving customer service and contributing to business growth.

Having the capability to manage everything with one powerful cloud-based software is essential to your restaurant’s success. Restaurant workers are busy, and a modern POS system can help make their jobs a little easier. It’s the small things that differentiate a POS from a great one such as a search bar, easy menu management, and online ordering capabilities. A POS is the heartbeat of your restaurant business; choose one that’s strong.

Tessa Zuluaga, Content Marketer at ToastTab

Tip 11: Inventory management

restaurant operation: pos-system: example photo

Inventory management may seem a mundane aspect of the bustling restaurant industry, but it is a vital underpinning of operational efficiency and profitability. It strikes the delicate balance between cost control, waste prevention, and ingredient availability.

Restaurants frequently teeter on tight profit margins. With very little wiggle room for financial losses due to food spoilage, waste or lost items, it is crucial for operators to optimize their inventory so they know exactly what products are being used, which dishes are outperforming the others, and what dates items need to be used by. 

Using tactics like comparing prices across procurement vendors and menu engineering, can help lower the cost of goods. By using systems to measure actual vs theoretical costs, restaurant operators can identify waste, forecast future needs based on trends and be proactive rather than reactive to their business and guest experience needs.

Phil Probert, VP of Growth at Craftable

Bonus: Best Practices in Restaurant Operations According to Restaurant Owners

In case you’re still hungry for knowledge, we’ve also asked restaurant owners that use UpMenu in their restaurants to help us prepare a short bonus list of practices they thought would be useful.

  1. Effective Staff Training: Investing in comprehensive training programs for all staff members ensures that they understand their roles and responsibilities, are knowledgeable about menu items, and can deliver exceptional customer service.
  2. Streamlined Workflow: Implementing efficient workflows and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for various tasks, from food preparation to customer service, helps to minimize bottlenecks and ensure smooth operations.
  3. Quality Food and Beverage: Emphasizing the use of high-quality ingredients and maintaining consistency in food and beverage preparation are essential for satisfying customer expectations and building a loyal customer base.
  4. Inventory Management: Utilizing inventory tracking systems and conducting regular audits ensure optimal inventory levels, prevent wastage, and control costs.
  5. Customer Feedback and Reviews: Actively seeking and responding to customer feedback and reviews allows for continuous improvement and helps in addressing any issues promptly.
  6. Employee Empowerment: Fostering a positive work culture, providing recognition, and empowering employees to take ownership of their tasks contribute to a motivated and productive team.
  7. Online Ordering System: Offering an online ordering system allows customers to place orders conveniently from their preferred devices, promoting contactless transactions and enhancing customer experience.
  8. Mobile App and Website Ordering: Providing a user-friendly mobile app for restaurants and website ordering platform expands accessibility and enables customers to place orders from anywhere at any time.

By following these best practices, restaurant operators can create a well-run establishment that delivers outstanding customer experiences, drives profitability, and establishes a strong reputation in the competitive foodservice industry.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Restaurant operations management refers to the systematic approach taken by restaurant managers and owners to oversee and coordinate the daily operations of a restaurant, with the goal of achieving maximum efficiency and ensuring a high standard of food quality.

The restaurant manager, as a key figure in the operation, is responsible for managing various aspects of the restaurant, including staff scheduling and training, inventory management to maintain adequate stock of food items, monitoring food quality to meet or exceed customer expectations, and ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations.

The restaurant owner, closely related to the manager, plays a crucial role in setting the overall direction and vision for the restaurant, making strategic decisions, and providing the necessary resources for smooth restaurant operation. By implementing effective systems and processes, optimizing workflow, and fostering a positive work environment, restaurant operations management aims to deliver exceptional dining experiences while achieving operational excellence.
Restaurant operations involve a wide range of activities that are essential for the smooth functioning and success of a dining establishment. These operations encompass various aspects, including serving meals to customers, managing staff, overseeing business operations, and ensuring the financial health of the restaurant.

One crucial element of restaurant operations is the efficient and timely serving of meals to customers. This includes coordinating the front-of-house and back-of-house operations to ensure that orders are taken accurately, food is prepared to high standards, and meals are served promptly and with exceptional customer service.

Managing staff is another integral part of restaurant operations. This involves hiring and training employees, creating work schedules, and maintaining a positive work environment to foster teamwork and efficiency. Effective staff management ensures that the restaurant is adequately staffed and that employees are well-prepared to deliver excellent service.

To maintain efficient business operations, restaurants often utilize a restaurant operating manual. This manual serves as a guide for employees and outlines standard procedures for various tasks, such as opening and closing procedures, handling reservations, managing inventory, and ensuring cleanliness and safety.

Financial health is a critical aspect of restaurant operations, and careful attention must be given to managing expenses and maximizing revenue. Recipe costing cards, for example, are used to track the cost of ingredients and calculate menu item costs, helping to determine pricing strategies and maintain profitability. Additionally, managing cash flow effectively ensures that the restaurant has sufficient funds to cover expenses, invest in growth, and navigate any financial challenges that may arise.

Furthermore, storing food properly is vital for maintaining food safety and quality. Adhering to guidelines for food storage, including proper temperature control and rotation of inventory, helps to minimize waste, prevent spoilage, and ensure that only fresh and safe food is served to customers.   In conclusion, restaurant operations encompass a wide range of activities, including serving meals, managing staff, overseeing business operations, and ensuring financial stability. By following standard procedures outlined in the restaurant operating manual, utilizing tools such as recipe costing cards, and maintaining efficient practices for storing food and managing cash flow, restaurants can optimize their operations and provide exceptional dining experiences to customers.
Automation can significantly improve restaurant operations by streamlining processes, enhancing efficiency, and positively impacting a restaurant’s profitability. Restaurant operators can leverage automation technologies to optimize various aspects of their business.

One way automation benefits restaurants is through the analysis of historical sales data. By utilizing advanced software and data analytics, restaurant operators can gain valuable insights into customer preferences, peak times, and popular menu items. This data-driven approach enables informed decision-making, allowing operators to make strategic adjustments to their offerings, pricing, and promotions, ultimately driving higher sales and profitability.

Additionally, automation can enhance customer service by reducing wait times and improving overall efficiency. For instance, self-ordering kiosks or mobile ordering platforms allow customers to place their orders directly, expediting the process and minimizing errors. This technology also frees up staff to focus on other essential tasks, such as delivering exceptional service or preparing food, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Automation can also optimize inventory management by closely monitoring usage and minimizing waste. With automated inventory tracking systems, restaurant operators can precisely monitor stock levels, track ingredient usage, and receive real-time alerts when items need to be replenished. This ensures that inventory is efficiently managed, reduces overstocking or shortages, and helps control costs, positively impacting a restaurant’s profitability.

It’s important to note that while automation can provide significant benefits, not all restaurants may require or benefit from the same level of automation. Factors such as the type of cuisine, restaurant size, and target market may influence the extent to which automation is implemented. However, for any profitable business, automation offers opportunities to enhance operations, improve customer experience, and drive success in an increasingly competitive industry.
Emil Gawkowski

Emil Gawkowski

Creative digital writer and marketer. A caffeine-fueled madman who loves to make things better.

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