OpenTable partnered with Kristen Hawley, founder of the popular Chefs + Tech newsletter, to create How to Grow & Thrive in the Restaurant Business, the ultimate guide to serving guests and growing your business at every phase of a restaurant’s lifecycle. We’re teasing excerpts all week, so follow along and download the whole guide here.
Is It Time to Change?
Sometimes, even after endlessly tweaking and optimizing your restaurant operations and marketing approach, you come to the realization that it’s time for a change. It doesn’t have to be a big change, either; don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself all the time. This could be because it’s been years since your restaurant has had a change, or it could be that you sense something’s not working as well as it should be, and you need to adjust to survive.
No one is immune to this. “I’m a firm believer in always taking inventory both personally and professionally of where you’ve been, where you’re currently at, and where you want to be,” says Kevin Boehm, restaurateur behind Chicago’s Boka Group. Don’t fear the big projects; that’s how you stay in business.
Change the service. “At one point we realized the service and ambiance was very haughty—the style the clientele liked in the ‘70s and ‘80s but what today would be seen as stuffy service,” says Eric Ripert of New York’s revered Le Bernardin. “In the ‘90s we decided that style wasn’t relevant anymore and we decided to relax our service. We kept the formality in terms of steps of service, the technicality and the excellence, but we changed the way waiters interacted with clients.” In 2016, after 30 years of operation, Le Bernardin was named one of the top restaurants in New York City by writer Adam Platt.
Change the space. Obviously, in Le Bernardin’s 30 years of existence, they’ve experienced more than just service changes. “Five years ago we redid the dining room entirely,” says Ripert. “We felt the service had evolved, the food had evolved, and the decor was no longer in harmony with our food and service.” Le Bernardin chose a more contemporary design, bringing more energy and interactivity to the room. “Keeping the same comfort but taking the stuffy away.” A New York Times restaurant reviewer reacted to the change, saying, “The old dining room was always compared to a corporate boardroom, but for some reason its monumental scale and profusion of framed canvases in an antiquated style made me think of the atrium of a minor art museum. That’s all different now… The achievement of [the new] design is that the interior now walks in step with Le Bernardin’s cuisine. Both are up-to-date, lively, intimate and playful.” [Read more…]