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60% of restaurant businesses fail within the first year. That’s a scary statistic, no question, and it should be. For healthy businesses, that kind of pressure is an important driving force, compelling you to beat the odds.

Still, the fact remains that you and every other restaurant owner are in a tough spot. You’re struggling against the possibility of failure and constantly competing against each other for a share of the market.

The winner here will be the business who can attract and retain customers. So how can you be that restaurant?

1. Start by Knowing the Competition

One of the most important things when running a business is to know the other players. That means paying attention to restaurants in your local area, as well as those in the same niche.

Drop in for a visit, look at their websites and menus, check their prices. You should be on the lookout for gaps and weaknesses that your restaurant can fill, and also for strong points you can emulate.

2. Hire a Professional Website Designer

Your website will be your first port of call for many customers. In fact, 90% of diners research a restaurant before going there. And DIY websites don’t really cut it anymore, you’ll need something that looks the part and represents your business well.

Focus on building a professional, helpful, and informative site. It should include things like your menu, social media links, and an events calendar as a bare minimum. You could also consider extra features like a booking form.

3. Plan Aggressive Marketing

Marketing is a full-time job and one that requires a lot of experience and skill. There’s a lot to consider, like social media, email, content marketing, coupons and promotions, and marketing in your local area. It may be a good idea to hire a marketer here, as you probably won’t be able to fully dedicate yourself to the task.

Whether you choose to hire a team or go it alone, it’s important to monitor your progress, take note of what works, and tweak future campaigns for optimum success.

4. Talk to Your Customers

The best way to understand your diners is, of course, to talk to them. Find out what they like, what they want to see in the future, and any feedback they have. Make time to chat with your customers and get to know them.

Train your staff to recognize familiar faces and names, memorize usual orders. Give free gifts to regular patrons. If Susan and Sam come in every Wednesday evening, offer them a discount on a future visit or a free sundae.

5. Streamline Operations with the Right Software

Today, software is a crucial ingredient when it comes to running a restaurant. In particular, accounting and inventory management software are important to make sure you never run out of stock and your accounts are properly managed.

Doing this kind of thing manually puts you at the mercy of human error. Imagine running out of your signature dish on a busy Friday night; it’d be a catastrophe. Good software can avert that by letting you know when things are running low and allowing you to stock up in advance.

6. Reward Loyal Customers

It’s important to reward those customers who keep coming back — you owe your business to them. Sign up to a loyalty program like Five Stars, and give repeat customers coupons or freebies after they’ve made a certain number of purchases.

The success of your restaurant ultimately depends on your customers, and the relationships you build with them. Loyal, satisfied diners that keep coming back and tell all their friends about you are the easiest way to stay out of that 60% danger zone.

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