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What are the levers to strategically optimise restaurant performance to grow revenue?

It’s no secret that the combined impacts of COVID-19 and Brexit led to a notable brain drain, with experienced leaders and talent leaving the industry or reducing their hours. This resulted in a marked decline in service standards, as enthusiastic but often inexperienced frontline teams struggle to meet the demands of the sector.

 

As well as seeing this first hand, I have personally hosted hundreds of overseas restaurateurs and hoteliers to the UK over recent years, who once lauded London’s hospitality scene as amongst the best in the world and now often view it as lagging.

 

More dynamic markets, like Dubai, are increasingly attracting many of the UK's most talented hospitality professionals. Over my recent visits, I've observed a significant rise in the number of Brits occupying site-level leadership roles. Unlike in the past, where the main draw was financial reward, today's expatriates are motivated by the innovative atmosphere, unparalleled investment, and vibrant industry environment in Dubai.

 

However, it's ironic that many in the UK dismiss Dubai's market as unsophisticated or inferior. This perception couldn't be further from reality. A visit to Dubai reveals a market teeming with energy and buoyancy, driven by innovation and substantial investment. Unfortunately, it's easy to get stuck in an echo chamber, where opinions are shaped by local competitors and a familiar circle of industry voices. This insular thinking can prevent us from recognising and learning from the dynamic developments happening in other parts of the world.

 

While the industry is slowly recovering, with some operators regaining ground in service quality, a significant challenge remains in rebuilding the commercial acumen lost during the pandemic. Many operators are still focusing on basic operational aspects—like managing food costs and ensuring service quality—at the expense of deploying broader more sophisticated leadership skills that can make all the difference to unit performance.

Increasingly Chief Executive’s and senior marketers tell us of a vicious cycle – cost pressures resulting in limited budget for central marketing spend and resource, whilst newer, less experienced GM’s don’t have the knowledge or capacity to be driving marketing or business development at a local level.

 

At Think Hospitality Consulting, we've identified a crucial need for enhanced commercial and revenue optimisation training. This is vital for navigating the current economic climate, where consumer confidence and disposable income remain low. While promotions and brand based marketing is often seen as the primary tool for driving revenue, this approach can be stifled without the necessary budgets and resources. Site-level ownership of business development and revenue optimisation is required, in addition to the support from central commercial and marketing teams - a reality I understand all too well having run marketing agencies and headed in-house marketing and commercial teams. A strategic approach to marketing and revenue optimisation is essential for mid to long-term success, rather than the reactive short-term tactics that are dominating.

 

Our revenue optimisation framework, which we've used successfully with various hospitality brands across the globe, highlights four key pillars: attracting new customers, increasing spend from existing customers, gaining additional visits from current customers, and maximising capacity. While attracting new customers is often the most challenging and expensive, the other three pillars can offer quicker wins through practical measures like menu optimisation, effective commercially focused customer interaction training, and efficient reservation management.

 

Implementing these strategies requires site-level ownership and a structured approach to analysing and improving revenue metrics. Simple yet effective techniques—such as dynamic menu adjustments, high-value trade-ups during peak times, and improving inbound enquiry management—can lead to significant improvements in revenue.

 

Despite the seeming obviousness of these strategies, our experience indicates that many businesses fail to implement them effectively. As financial pressures begin to ease and senior team members gain more experience, now is the time to upskill your teams in commercial acumen and establish robust revenue optimisation structures. By doing so, businesses can secure a stronger financial future – and avoid leaving money on the table!

 

James Hacon is the Managing Partner of Think Hospitality Consulting, the specialists in growth, performance and internationalisation strategy for multi-site hospitality brands.

This article was first published in Propel Friday Opinion.

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