Serving good food so you can make a profit might seem to be the obvious strategy for a successful restaurant operation, but profitable dining establishments understand they must meet several objectives to stay in business. Using basic business strategies that apply to all profitable companies, successful restaurateurs go beyond a great menu concept to ensure they maximize sales and profits.

Product Development

Think beyond the type of food you offer when operating a restaurant. If you offer Italian food, for example, you will need to create a brand that tells your target market you cater to families, affluent couples, college students or budget-conscious seniors. If you try to create a menu that caters to every type of person, none will feel you have targeted them. When you develop your menus, your objective is not simply to create tasty dishes but to create a specific type of clientele.

Controlling Food Costs

A key objective in operating any restaurant is to control food costs. Small-business owners who don’t know their food cost per plate can soon find their prices don’t cover the cost of the food, operating the restaurant and providing a profit. Food costs not only include the price of the food you order from vendors but also any delivery charges, interest on purchases made on credit, theft and spoilage. In addition to calculating the actual cost of creating each sandwich, dessert or entree, divide your total food spending each month by the number of customers you served to determine an average cost per plate. Once you have your food costs, determine your overhead, or cost for running the restaurant, to develop your pricing guidelines.

Testing Marketing

Advertising and promotion are essential to keeping your doors open, as you’ll only get word-of-mouth referrals if diners come to you in the first place. Don’t fall in love with a particular newspaper, coupon program, social media effort or special before you’ve tried a variety of marketing tools. Continue to test different marketing strategies because there are so many available and small-business owners don’t have large enough marketing budgets to try them all. Instruct each server to ask each table how diners heard of you and track your results each month.

Managing Customer Service

If you have to spend marketing dollars to get each customer through your door, you likely won’t stay in business because of the expense. Developing repeat and referral business is a central objective to operating a restaurant. Your wait staff must be trained to make each dining experience a pleasure. This means knowing your menu inside out, making recommendations, suggesting wines with entrees, visiting each table multiple times during a service and never arguing with a customer.