When it comes to restaurant survival, the numbers are rather grim: 60 percent fail in their first year, and 80 percent don’t make it past the 5-year mark, according to FSR Magazine. (And of course, in 2020, Covid-19 isn’t doing anyone any favors.)
Those stats won’t come as a shock to most people in the restaurant business. Restaurateurs understand the odds aren’t necessarily in their favor, but they forge ahead because they’re passionate about their work, and often they’ve got the talent, experience and resources to make a go of it.
But even the sagest restaurateur can benefit from the help of a restaurant or hospitality consultant. Whether you’re opening up a new restaurant or looking to revamp your current concept, restaurant consulting services can provide valuable insights and guidance that can help you stand out from the competition, delight your customers and avoid costly mistakes.
If you’re interested in engaging a restaurant consultant, here are four things to know about their services so you can decide whether it’s the right move for you.
1. What does a restaurant consultant do?
A restaurant consultant is a professional advisor you can engage to help you run your establishment more smoothly and profitably. They may operate independently or as part of a firm. They may be hired to identify and address specific issues or challenges with your business. Or they can provide general guidance around your operations, employees, financials and more, with the goal of making your business achieve sustainable growth and success.
Restaurant consulting services may include any of the following:
Brand and concept design
Financial planning and accounting services
Menu development and pricing
Establishing efficiency in staff hiring and training
Location and property selection for your restaurant
Assistance with franchising
2. Who needs a restaurant consultant?
Restaurant newbies, veterans and everyone in between can find a restaurant consultant’s services useful.
For those who are launching a new restaurant (especially owners who haven’t ever opened a restaurant before), a consultant can guide them through the necessary steps and processes to ensure their launch is as smooth as possible. That could include developing a concept, building out your brand, staffing, selecting technology, and more.
For restaurateurs who are currently running a restaurant, a consultant can help them pinpoint areas that can be optimized or to resolve problems that could be hurting their business. For example: some restaurateurs struggle with high turnover; a consultant could help them to evaluate hiring processes and workplace culture to ensure they’re attracting and retaining the best talent (and staying competitive with your peers). A consultant can also help you identify ways to automate operations, cut costs, run more effective marketing campaigns and more.
3. What can you expect when working with a restaurant consultant?
If you’re already operating an established restaurant, the first thing a restaurant consultant will do is spend time observing your restaurant’s daily operations, both in the front and back of the house. Other ways the restaurant consultant will get a feel of how you are currently running your establishment is by sampling your menu and interacting with your customers, hosts, servers, bartenders, and staff.
Then the consultant will offer suggestions, depending on your area of need, from changes to the menu, interior design, brand and concept, spending, kitchen operations, customer service, among other aspects of your business. You’ll work with the restaurant consultant to establish and implement a plan of action. That could mean making big shifts — like rebranding or moving/adding locations — or less drastic changes, like retraining staff, implementing new technology, cleaning up financials, etc. Depending on the structure of your engagement, a consultant may simply deliver recommendations and hand them off to your team, or they may execute on those recommendations and ensure they’re successful.
If you’re launching a new restaurant and you’re planning to use a consultant, it’s wise to bring them on early in the process — i.e., well before the grand opening, so you’ll have time to lean on their expertise and act on their advice. Expect your restaurant consultant to talk to you about the ideas you have for your business, brainstorm ways to implement them, establish a plan, and check in with you periodically while you work to open your establishment. Your consultant will most likely check in after you’ve opened to ensure everything is running smoothly.
4. How much does a restaurant consultant cost?
How much a restaurant consultant costs depends on their fee scale. There are a few options you can typically choose from.
Hourly, daily, or monthly retainer
While it depends on experience and what region of the country you live in, restaurant consulting fees generally range from $250 to $1,000 a day, or $40 to $120 per hour, if done on-site. You can always negotiate the option of a monthly retainer fee if that’s easier.
Project- or goal-based
Restaurant consultants can also charge per project, or according to the goal you want to accomplish. You can ask the restaurant consultant to include in the proposal the estimated amount of time it will take to complete the project, and the hourly rate to be charged. Then an option will be included stating that if the project goes beyond the estimated time, the restaurant consultant will be paid hourly or per day for the remainder of the project.
Many times, out-of-pocket and travel expenses are billed separately and should be included in the proposal.
Be efficient with your restaurant consultant’s time
Remember that you’re paying for your consultant’s time. Make sure you give as much information about your needs as you can from the beginning so you won’t waste time having to redo missed steps necessary to achieve your desired end result.