You've got your new venue, you've planned out the menus, you've hired a great chef and come up with a fantastic design for the staff uniforms. Now you're just missing that one crucial ingredient - you know the one.
Unfortunately for people to start eating at your restaurant they need to A: Know you exist, and B: Think that you seem like the sort of place where they would like to spend their money. This means you're going to have to get the word out. And here's how you go about it.
Location, Location, Location
Perhaps the most crucial thing to bear in mind for any restaurant is where you put it. For all the advertising and online presence and good reviews you get, 9 times out of 10 people choose somewhere to eat based on how convenient it is. Somewhere near the city centre or in a residential area where people are likely to eat out is good. Someone on a main road that people use only for heading into or out of town means you're going to see a lot of foot traffic going past without even slowing down.
Pick your location carefully, paying attention not just to how convenient it is for locals, but how much foot traffic you get going through there and how many other eateries have managed to set up nearby.
Word of Mouth Online and Off
Next to "Well, it's the closest place that serves food right now" the most powerful influence on a customer's choice of eatery is a good recommendation from a friend. The hospitality industry thrives on word of mouth.
Fostering word of mouth is at once straight forward and extremely difficult. Basically, when you get customers in you have to provide excellent customer service. Knowing how to run a great restaurant is another article in itself, but things like friendly staff, a decent hospitality IT suite to make sure that the menu is up to date and paying is easy, and of course, delicious food can all the make the difference.
It's also a good idea to offer special deals for large parties, as it's a good way to not only keep customers coming back but also to make sure they bring their friends!
You can also spread your reputation online with a well maintained Twitter and Facebook page. You can use these to let customers know about special offers and events, while also creating a forum where people can leave comments talking about the food and the restaurant - the positive comments are self-evidently helpful, while negative ones, dealt with quickly with a judicious application of refunds, vouchers and apologies, can also create good press.
One final one: Some restaurants, in trying to create good press, post fake reviews on restaurant review sites. This is a bad idea - a couple of positive, genuine customer reviews are worth far more than reams of fake ones. Reader's can usually tell the difference.
Finally, your restaurant's own web page is a crucial marketing tool. Don't fall into the trap all too many restaurant websites fall into - a web page that opens with flashy animations and pull quotes from your favourite reviews.
Your web design should focus very much on what the customer needs to know-namely, the menu, the opening times and directions to the venue. Make sure that information is presented clearly and up front, with links to positive reviews and press coverage on the side.
With judicious use of IT and a sound knowledge of the hospitality industry, this should be all you need to get all your tables fully booked.
Sam Wright is a freelance writer who is currently working with hospitality IT firm Antana.