Ian Said from Ideal Software, which specialises in Point of Sale and Inventory Control software for the Hospitality industry, takes a tough look at the good, the bad and the ugly of owning a restaurant in SA.
1) Restaurants continue to be a labour of love for most who own them, and the passion can be felt the moment you walk in the door. Although not as financially rewarding as it once was, many owners still find great reward in the service, the product they deliver and the support they receive from loyal customers.
2) Restaurants remain one of the very few places that still offer first time job seekers an opportunity to enter the market. With attitude and a willingness to learn being the most sought after attributes, restaurants offer those with limited education and qualifications a great stepping stone and a regular income.
3) Everyone eats! This offers a wonderful opportunity to those able to feed their customers’ hunger and their desire for an experience. Restaurants that offer more than just a meal seem to be bucking the trend and flourishing.
4) Social media is both a blessing and curse to those in the industry. Regrettably, for many, it’s mostly a curse. Restaurant owners can struggle to find traction and have great difficulty responding to the constant bombardment of comments and complaints on open forums and groups.
5) High input costs are killing restaurants at the moment. Owners are caught between suppliers increasing their prices and downward pressure from customers who are feeling the pinch themselves. Smart buying and control has become one of the most important aspects of running the business (Ideal Stock Control can assist here).
6) Skyrocketing initial investments are a double-edged sword – they certainly lift that break-even point but just perhaps they will bring down the number of entrants to an already over-traded market. We operate in a Free Market and anyone with an idea, the will and, of course, the finance, is able to enter the market.
7) Crippling occupational costs! Leases signed in good times with little ‘what if?’ considerations are crippling restaurant profitability. Landlords are not very sympathetic to the plight of retailers right now. Spend a little more time, money and effort before signing the next lease or renewal and, where possible, work with and not against the landlord to try and find solutions.
8) Lack of profitability in the early years is placing a massive strain on the industry. “If you build it, they will come” simply does not ring true for everyone and contingency plans must be in place to help you through the early days and the tough times. After all it’s a business and not a game, treat it as such.
9) Sometimes it feels as though pressure is coming from all sides – staff, suppliers, customers. This business is not for the fainthearted, so plan ahead, get help and, where possible, maintain your sanity!
Which leads us to…
10) You are not alone! Read, learn, watch, seek, ask… join your local associations and create support groups of like minded individuals.
After all if the adage “tough times don’t last but tough people do” is true, we still have so much to look forward to.
For more information on Ideal Software, visit the website.