You went through it all: the planning, the fretting, the soft opening, the grand opening, the honeymoon phase, the hype, the bad reviews and the good reviews. Now, after the initial hubbub has died down, and you have some solid clout behind your food, you are realizing that you have a popular restaurant.
Not just a flash in the pan, but a certified popular restaurant, one that has the potential for expansion. What do you do?
Here’s what you shouldn’t do: you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity.
At the same time, you shouldn’t sell out what made your restaurant popular (more on that below). You have to strike a delicate balance between scaling and opening new revenue streams, while still remaining true to whatever initial magic made you such a darling of the dining public. It’s not an easy feat, but you will be rewarded with a more lucrative enterprise if you are successful.
Let’s take a look at the right way to deal with a popular restaurant.
Along with popularity comes imitation. Some subtle imitation can be fine, and it might even help your brand (it’s always good to be the trailblazer of a popular style or concept), but where it becomes a problem is when other businesses try and capitalize on your success with their name or branding.
To trademark your restaurant, you have to file a new trademark application, where you will be asked for a drawing or representation of what you are trademarking, in addition to your intentions with the trademark. It’s a few hundred dollars, but it is worth it for the legal leverage it gives you in name and likeness disputes.
Selling Your Brand
You have a popular brand? Why not use that popularity to open up a new revenue stream, like branded merchandise. Take your logo, or simply the name of your restaurant, and get custom t shirts printed to sell at your host’s station or behind the bar.
Branded merchandise not only capitalizes on your popularity, but it also fuels your popularity as well, since the more people wear your branding, the more iconic it becomes.
How many times has a restaurateur looked at a profitable restaurant and thought, “well, no one will notice if a few corners are cut”. Wrong, wrong, wrong – people do notice that sort of thing, and word gets around quickly, especially in the age of online reviews.
If you have to pull in more money, perhaps because of a shift in the market price of ingredients or an uptick in rent, then raise the prices slightly, taking care to be transparent with patrons about your reasons for doing so. They will understand, and they will pay slightly more.
Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice the quality of your food or your service to correct for income slippage.
Beyond these considerations, you have to start thinking about expansion: how to open a new restaurant that capitalizes on a new base. But that is fodder for a whole new article! For now, just make sure to trademark your restaurant, sell your brand and stay true to your quality.