6000+ Owners Give Their Advice About Running a Restaurant

We surveyed 6000+ restaurant owners across 9 markets to find out what advice they would give to restaurateurs. If you’re planning on opening a restaurant, here’s what you need to know.

The Beginning is the Hardest Part

The hardest part, owners agreed in every market, is first starting. There’s so many details you need to get right that have nothing to do with great cuisine, like building permits, governmental regulations, table settings, and decor. But patience and grit are key to success:

“Be prepared to completely immerse yourself in the business. It’s a lifestyle, not a job.”

“Only open the restaurant once everything is REALLY ready. Don’t rush into it!”

“At the beginning, everything is difficult. But connecting with customers matters more.”

Take a deep breath — you’re likely at the hardest possible part of the journey to becoming a restaurant owner. It may seem tough now, but it will all be worth it in the end.

Create the Best Possible Customer Experience

When we asked restaurant owners to rank what they were most passionate about, customers came first. Hospitality matters more than anything else — owners ranked it higher than menu, profit, or employees.

Please rank in order what you are most to least passionate about with regard to your business.
  1. Consistently offering my customers an excellent experience
  2. Keeping my business profitable
  3. My cuisine and menu
  4. Training my staff
  5. Marketing my business
  6. (Tie)The logistics of operating my business
  7. (Tie) Accounting

And owners aren’t just passionate about it. They’re prioritizing it. 42% of respondents to a write-in question about their key priorities mentioned the customer experience.

So it’s no surprise that the majority of the advice we received revolved around creating the best possible customer experience:

“Act as if you were the customer.”

“Always look from a customer’s perspective, whether it’s the table or chair you sit at or the experience at the counter. The customer experience will bring them back.”

“The raw material and the quality of service are not the only priority. Differentiate and offer a memorable experience to your customers to get them back.”

“Always do what makes customers happy and satisfied, if so they will come back and by that you will achieve success!”

Hospitality encompasses everything about how you make your customers feel, from the moment they find your restaurant online to when they sign the check. Read how this top-rated Colombian restaurant became known for their hospitality.

Your Staff is the Foundation of Your Hospitality

Hospitality isn’t just about your customer experience. It’s about your employees. The best employees will deliver the best hospitality, so it makes sense that owners had a lot to say about staff. The biggest piece of advice? Make sure you train your staff extensively and up-front so they know exactly how to make your guests feel at home.

“Do not focus only on the guests, but also your employees. Each has their own qualities and value that are good for your business.”

“Put your employees first.”

“Lay the foundation with your staff right from the initial interview, so they know right from hire date your expectations and your zero tolerance policies.”

American restaurants see staff turnover as high as 75%, but research has shown that training your employees and giving them a path to succeed and grow at your restaurant can help. Learn more tips on training your staff from this Mississippi cafe.

Managing Your Reputation Is Essential Part of Hospitality

Customer experience isn’t limited to what happens in your physical restaurant anymore. Diners interact with your business before and after they visit online through social media and reviews. When it comes to choosing a place to eat, reviews are generally the most trusted source of information after recommendations from a friend.

Trusted Channels for Advice on Hotels, Restaurants and Experiences

Friends' recommendations

Review sites

Guide books

Bloggers and influencers

Your reputation is the kind of marketing investment that pays off over time:

“Invest in the beginning a lot in marketing so that people know who you are and what you do.”

“Listen to customers and take the attitude that they're always right - remember, perception is reality. Respond to reviews courteously, don't be defensive, but don't be afraid to point out factual inaccuracies.”

“Pay attention to all the reviews for what to improve every day. Then, persevere!”

Need some inspiration to get started with your reviews? Click here for our best tips on responding.

Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

As a new owner, it can be overwhelming trying to do everything possible to get the restaurant off the ground. But most of our advice encouraged new owners to focus on a small, quality-driven menu and the customer experience as the best way to build a strong reputation.

“Quality is the best advertising!”

“Go for quality and trust your product. If you can, guests will come.”

“Bet on the quality of your ingredients before anything else.”

When we asked owners about what kind of cuisine they were experimenting with in 2020 and beyond, they focused on sustainable, healthy eating — one that thrives with quality ingredients from local farms.

Food Trends Restaurant Owners are Currently Implementing

%

Allergy-friendly

%

Healthier menu options

%

Sustainable foods or produce

%

Small plates

Juggling suppliers can be tricky, but remember that they’re people just like you. Finding the right growers and distributors grounds your cuisine. And your customers will notice the difference.

Never Forget It’s a Business

While your customer experience and cuisine are essential building blocks to a successful restaurant, never forget the “business” side of the restaurant business:

“If you are a chef, you could be the best chef there is, but without good managerial skills, you'll have a difficult time keeping your boat afloat.”

“Track your indicators daily, weekly and monthly.”

“Today, the restaurant industry is evolving in a market where there is so much competition. You must first ask what the target audience is and then create a strategy to reach and satisfy them.”

“Learn profitability and basic business practices first, they'll serve you better than creativity in the long term.”

No one got into the restaurant business to be an accountant or a marketer, but often, that’s exactly what restaurant owners have to do.

It’s a Tough Lifestyle, But You’ll Love It

The restaurant business is full of ups and downs, but every owner we asked said they wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“It’s much more difficult than it sounds or you can imagine. But when it is with love, affection, and attention, the results are so rewarding.”

“Believe in the dream and have strength of will.”

“You can always appeal to everyone but if you do your job with passion the customer understands, appreciates and pays you. A restaurant is not a diamond mine but the place where the heart and soul unite in the face of extraordinary flavors.”

Restaurant owners do so much for their customers and their community. Want to learn more about how Tripadvisor can support your business? Fill out the form below:

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*Methodology: The 2020 Trends Survey project surveyed 6,652 Tripadvisor users across 9 markets (United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Netherlands, Brazil, Germany) in October 2019. The survey targeted users who had visited the site in the last 12 months. The sample is made up of Tripadvisor users who had opted into emails from Tripadvisor and were invited to participate in the research via an email link directing them to an online survey platform.

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Last Updated: 16 February 2020
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