Restaurants Uncategorized

Restaurant Soft Opening: Do It the Right Way

When opening the doors to your new restaurant, it’s important to explore all the ways you can build new customers and get them excited about your place. You want to get and get fresh faces in the door to explore your menu. 

That’s why hosting a soft opening could be an excellent option for your restaurant. Having a limited invite list will allow a smaller event to try menu items and drinks to see how the first experience will go, kind of like a showcase test run. 

While still facing COVID-19, restaurants around the country are preparing to reopen and applying a soft opening approach to control capacity and health safety concerns. This way, your customers feel more comfortable dining inside. 

A grand opening occurs on the actual day your restaurant opens to the public. Still, the soft opening will be the beta test before the official start. This is beneficial for you and your staff to ensure they have everything they need to be successful. Allowing guests to tell their friends and social media followers about their look inside your new restaurant before opening will get people excited for when you open.

Here are the steps to have a soft opening and do it the right way. 

Decide on the Menu 

The soft opening might be more obtainable if you consider offering select menu items to try. There’s less preparation to worry about when bringing items to the tables on a busy opening. There are a few factors to consider when creating your menu. Spotlighting dishes from the menu showcases the dishes you think are perfectly ready for review. Releasing a beta-style menu is a great way to improve some kinks you may want to work on. Displaying only a few items on the menu also lets your customers know more and return later to see updated additions to the full menu. You can host more than one soft opening event to feature different menu items you want to test. 

If you don’t, go the select menu route, and your grand opening is sooner than later. Having the full menu option gives you the ability to get feedback on all of your dishes before opening your doors completely.

Serving your entire menu at a soft opening will give you excellent feedback, there are some disadvantages. You need to be fully prepared to host a full menu soft opening, meaning all aspects of your restaurant’s menu must be ready.

Create the invitation 

The invitations you create for your soft opening should invite the guests to come and test how your restaurant runs. Depending on how extensive an invite list is, you can keep it casual or do something upscale. Choose something memorable and creative that will grab your guests’ attention. However you send the invite, make sure to include the date, time, address, menu pricing, RSVP date, and dress code if there is one. 

Be sure to also consider timing and capacity. Seeing how many people you can handle is different depending on the capacity and staff. Get used to a natural flow, and break up your guests into other time spots. 

Build the guest list 

Inviting guests can have a substantial impact on your restaurant’s success. Inviting familiar faces and family and friends makes them much more forgiving for anything that may go wrong during your soft opening. Those people can give you constructive criticism and offer insight during your test run. Just remind your friends and family to be honest. 

You can also build your guest list by contacting local business owners. Introducing yourself to local businesses can be a great way to introduce yourself to the community and build long-lasting relationships. Introducing your restaurant locally is a solid first impression for other business owners in the area. Building professional relationships with other community businesses is vital to your restaurant’s success. 

Adding community leaders and influencers to the guest list could benefit your soft opening. Prominent local leaders and community influencers will give you lots of pull within the community and generate a positive word-of-mouth promotion for your restaurant. Positive reviews will be critical early on to build your restaurant’s reputation. Be prepared to impress these leaders and influencers so they can give you those positive reviews. 

Feedback is essential 

By gathering feedback from your soft opening guests, you can make the improvements that are needed for your opening to the public. Gather your feedback in writing and ask guests to fill out a questionnaire at the end of their dining experience. Drop a feedback card with your guests check that way. You know everyone got the chance to fill one out. 

By fulfilling these steps, your soft opening is guaranteed to succeed. 

  • Prepare a menu you think will fit perfectly with your soft opening wants and needs. 
  • Evaluate how your seating arrangements and flow worked
  • See how your staff handled their knowledge of the menu and how they work together. 
  • Get the word out by having the local community there. 
  • Implement feedback and tweak anything that may need improvements. 

There are so many benefits to doing a soft opening, and it can give you the confidence boost your restaurant needs. Trust us; you’re going to want to take these steps and do it the right way. By doing so, you will have an advantage that will set you up for success first thing. You can attract new customers for your grand opening by downloading the ChowEasy App. Use it as another tool for your soft opening and grand opening launch to connect with local customers and restaurants. 


The Movement To Ban Tips In Restaurants

Restaurants are banning tips and increasing prices
Some restaurants are joining the no tip movement by banning tips and increasing prices

Why Are Some Restaurants Banning Tips?

We all know the protocol after finishing a great meal. You receive the check and pull out your phone to calculate how much to pay in tips. This standard courteous gesture however, has lately been challenged by a growing movement to ban tips in restaurants.

Restaurant tipping is a practice that dates back a few centuries. Tipping was adopted among wealthy Americans in the 1800’s and stretches back as far as the 17th century.

Like many ‘norms’ today, society is mostly accustomed to it without question. Sure, restaurant tips have been important in helping servers pay the bills and we don’t suggest you stop. Some restaurants however have been joining the movement to ban tips altogether. Diners have also been joining in the movement claiming that tipping is outdated and even unethical! Continue reading to learn why.

Tips Are Unfair To Kitchen Staff

An objective of the no tip movement  is to equalize pay between the kitchen and front end staff
One objective of a no tip policy is to equalize pay between the kitchen and front end staff

The purpose of the movement to ban tips in restaurants is to equalize the wages between untipped and tipped employees. In a restaurant setting, this means closing the gap between kitchen staff and servers. The average federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13/hr. Although the wages are low, tips often accumulate to a higher income than Dishwashers and cooks. The initiative taken by restaurants is as follows: ban tipping, raise menu prices, and pay everyone a higher wage.

Tips Are Often Paid With Biases

Amount of tips earned can sometimes be determined by discriminatory factors rather than quality of service
The amount received in tips can vary between servers and sometimes may not be dependent on level of performance

Restaurants are also joining the movement to ban tips because of the bias behind tip amount paid. There are many factors that affect the amount of a tip given. Some are based on the quality of service provided where higher tips would be rewarded on excellent service. Others however, tip the same regardless. This means extra effort given by exceptional servers sometimes goes unrewarded. The amount paid then is in many cases, random. Not only are there arguments for the biases between servers on a performance level, but also on demographics. For example, studies have shown that women in general are paid higher tips than their male counterparts.

Why Some Restaurants Are Abandoning The No Tip Movement

Joe's Crab Shack is a pioneer of the no tip movement for restaurants
Joe’s Crab Shack is a pioneer for the no tip movement. But even they are abandoning the no tip policy in a few locations

There are a handful of restaurants that agree with the flaws of tipping and proudly became pioneers of tip banning. Even a major restaurant chain like Joe’s Crab Shack decided to ban tipping. Joe’s Crab Shack and other restaurants haven’t stayed with the changes for too long however. So what is stopping restaurants from continuing the no tip movement?

Negative Customer Feedback

Joe’s Crab Shack was a pioneer of the no tipping movement, initially testing it in 18 locations. As a result of banning tips, the prices of menu items were increased. 60% of Joe’s Crab Shack customers showed opposition to the new policy. Customers doubted that extra payments were distributed to employees from management. They also believed that a no tip policy would decrease the quality of service. In response, Joe’s Crab Shack turned away from the policy but kept it for 4 locations.

Server Complaints

Customers weren’t the only ones to show negative feedback. Servers have also responded in opposition. The Bar Agricole Restaurant in San Francisco was losing servers in two locations because of the no tip policy. Thad Vogler, owner of the restaurant, said that management and kitchen staff were happy but servers left for other restaurants. Clearly, the no tip policy benefited the kitchen with raises and left servers with less. He said the mistake was in not raising the prices high enough to benefit both ends of the restaurants.

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