Helpful Replysmall town restaurant

Junior Burger
2012/05/15 12:23:28
7th yr. running this business..breakfast and lunch..hanging in there but 6-8 months now I am down by half. I'm really in the sticks, same customer base, no major roads or highways nearby. Any ideas for me to get people in here? I've blamed the economy but since I also live at my business, it's looking grim.
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/15 13:35:15
i think maybe you need to go out and market yourself. here are my 2 cents. new items get involed with your community.
go out with samples change your menu. i was a  chef for 24 years. it is so easy to get laid back after a while. new ideas fresh new things.
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/15 13:49:47
Well, thanks, I'm trying to do that now..added my homemade chicken and beef soups..they're a hit..lots of seniors here. Most eat the exact same breakfast and lunch every single day, lol...can't seem to get any kids in, even on weekends..hard to try new things here, that's for breakfast I had to explain Long Isl. Bagels, lol..I'm thinking of passing out samples at the bar (the other side of my bldg is a bar, that I also run) It's overwhelming..hard to find time to experiment with food..but I try.
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/15 17:32:49
what about starting doing dinners??  maybe only on friday & saturday evenings  as that would be good to bring in the kids you'd like to see come in - advertise it as date night kick-off to a great evening.  doing a sunday dinner that's buffet style - advertised as  bring the whole family and enjoy the time together instead of having to cook & clean up - might work, too. 

for breakfasts, keeping the kids in mind, do you offer sandwiches - egg w/sausage & cheese on bagel or roll or wrap??  kids like quick & do adults; especially when they're in a rush.  you could offer a free small drink with purchase of the breakfast sandwich - for a limited time, that is.
Dr of BBQ
Filet Mignon
☄ Helpful
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/15 20:35:48
Ok I'm just going to throw a bunch of things into the mix ask a few questions and of course you reject or accept what ever you want.
This is really the wrong time of year for soup. Soups are great winter time foods.
D not do a buffet, it's the fastest way to go broke in this business.
Date night at a local restaurant/bar sorry I don't think so. That will never work unless your allowing under 21 to drink. These kids have seen tens of thousands of fast food commercials and that's where they go and hang out, or eat.
But you spoke of older citizens but made no note of the middle aged people. You need the people between 30 and 60 to do what your looking for.
Do you serve food in your bar?
Do you do a good bar business?
Is Friday or Saturday night a great bar night?
What is and how close is your nearest competition?
I have always thought that a really good bar even with a ton of competition could make some great extra money by opening up the kitchen for breakfast at 11:00 PM. Think about all the times that you have left a bar and gone to get something to eat after drinking all evening. It's a no brainier. And if your food is good you'll pull from other bars where patrons will leave earlier to get something to eat on the way home. It will take some time to establish and you need a small menu, to make a fast turn around but it will work.
good luck
PS I had to add something it really is the economy unless your doing something wrong food wise or price wise. It's slower than it should be for everyone but that said you can survive if you fight like hell.  But this move could turn your place into the towns winner
post edited by Dr of BBQ - 2012/05/15 23:27:36
Vic Cardenas
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/15 23:54:18
I did a search for your city listed on your profile. It really looks like there's not much in that town. On yelp I see one hotel and one pizzeria. Are you the pizzeria? I doubt it based on what you said about your menu. My point is, you don't seem to be "on the map" if I was a tourist or someone from the a few towns over. I'd suggest selling really good "bar food" if you aren't already. Like hot wings and steak sandwiches and such. You need a hip environment if you want to attract younger people. Its hard to give you advice without actually seeing your restaurant/bar. But I hope that helps. I'd really take advantage of that bar and get yourself known in the other towns and especially the nearest big town.
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/16 03:30:15
Sounds like your in a small town, relying on the same customers day after day. Sounds like either your customers are tired of the same old, same old stuff or your quality has gone downhill, or both.
You need to do something new and different.
Follow the same formula they use on "Restaurant Impossible".
1. Redecorate and spruce the place up.
2. Do a critical review of your menu.
3. survey your existing customers to see what changes they want on the menu.
4. Get out of your rut.
Do you have a web site? Post it here along with your menu.
Quit doing things the way you've always done them because that's not working. Invigorate yourself!
Contact Robert Irvine at Food Network. Maybe they'll come and do it for you!
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/16 08:27:28
When you operate in a small town you should try to tap in to every club that has a meeting every organization that has a function and every family that has an event. It may not always be the happiest events...but repasts are lunch business.

Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/17 01:18:49
dr of bbq, i got the impression from "(the other side of my bldg is a bar, that I also run)"  that the restaurant and bar are two separate, yeah, actually date-nite dinner would be workable since it would be happening in the restaurant; not the bar...
and further comments about it being a very small town (ie, not much there) 'date-nite dinner' could actually be built up into something; not just for the older teens, for the parents as well!
i'm presenting from the standpoint of the customer - teenagers never have enough to do or places to go; especially those in the upper teens and up to 21 - since they can't legally drink, bars are, this could be a nice in-between thing for them and parents need a break from the kids and time to reconnect with each other...
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/17 02:10:00
It may not be anything you are doing "wrong"

The timeline of the dip in business happened after a pretty bad hurricane hit the area...and Cincinnatus is a small farming community.
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/28 13:35:40
A lot to think about. Some good ideas. This is a small farming comunity. I'm the only bar and there is a pizzeria and some girls down the street with a little bakery trying to also serve breakfast and lunch but I never see any cars there much...I can see it from my place. I'd like to do dinners a coupla nights but I would need a real cook for that, not just grill cooks..and money for the different food I'd need..just don't have it right now but I plan to do it eventually. Started small with eggs first then added lunch later...I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm only one person here doing too many jobs with no experience..but I'm stuck here, owning husband was supposed to do this but he left me stuck with it. Guess I'm doing ok...I'm still here..but this yr is the worst...thanks for the advice. val
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/28 13:48:38
Well, I'm the hotel...built in's a monster 3 story money pit in very sad shape..not renting rooms..they all need renovations...just the restaurant and bar on the first floor. My husband thought he could run this place but failed and's in my name so now I'm an ex- hairdresser who now is a one woman show here. Janitor, cook, waitress, bartender, get the idea...7 yrs later I'm still open though..this place was booming with the employees that my husband drove out one by one so I started from scratch when I took over in '05. I really need help...I have employees but I'm not a bossy enough boss so I do a lot myself. This is a small farm town..some construction workers..12 tables in the dining room and the bar on the other side is pretty big but also rundown...can't get ahead for improvements but usually I've been breaking even...but thats about it. I hafta pay cash for everything so I'm only in debt to the bank for the credit since this was in both our names..and he filed a bankruptcy and I stayed here, paying off the debts. Still, since all the money and the house are gone, this is now my only retirement plan...sell it one day...I'm already's a ton of work..people here like the hot lunch specials I make...if my cooks would follow my instructions and recipes it would help...hard to fire them...not too many want to drive out bigger town is about 25 minutes...any ideas would be great, thanks.
post edited by mzlee - 2012/05/28 13:57:23
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/28 13:54:49
lol...Robert Irvine is pretty scary...I watch him all the time. Yes, I've considered some of the things you mention. I think we may be in a rut...hard to get people here to try new things though. I'm talking to some friends about helping me repaint the dining room...really need new carpet and chairs in there but no funds. I don't have a web site, no. No idea how to go about that, prolly costs money too. Everything does. Thanks for the input.
Vic Cardenas
Re:small town restaurant 2012/05/28 16:07:23
You must be Bennett Hotel. If so, it looks like the best location in the entire town. Is that grassy park area to your west yours? Why don't you have a BBQ? Make it a monthly event throughout the summer. Set up a grill, smoker and picnic tables. Put fliers on all the doors in town.  I know that'll cost money but it will be something different for the town to enjoy. During/after the BBQ's, they'll wander into the bar.
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/06/11 16:15:11
Nope, I don't own that land. Actually only own 16 ft on that side..driveway...which usta be a drive thru but the med. bldg next door put up a fence and blocked my del. trucks hafta back in..lawyers were no help...been open for 150 yrs.
I've hung in there for 7 yrs...not giving up yet..actually we have a smoker inside that we don't husband tried switching the restaurant to bbq and failed. Hoping to bring some ppl in with bands over the next few wks and I put my son back to cooking...he's the best..and cut hrs. for the other cooks. Also got my beautiful and sweet daughter in law back to waitressing 4 days a wk..they love her and it's been going down hill without those we're gonna try and get it built back up..some changes to the foods..I'm working on it. Thanks.
Hot Dog Empire
Re:small town restaurant 2012/06/11 22:24:28
I wish I had some magical words I could give, to help you turn it all around. I do admire your tenacity though. Most people would have used any excuse to bail and run. There is a wealth of information here on the forum, im confident that you will find the answers as well as a strategy that will bring you back on top.
Good Luck!
Filet Mignon
Re:small town restaurant 2012/06/11 23:29:17
Great concept for a highly successful small town eatery.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/06/12 00:06:19
200 burgers a day a $2.25 each, they won't get rich, but they serve a vital link of community in those parts
Fried Pie Lady
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/06/19 11:58:20
Mzlee, I too live in an isolated area with a limited customer base so I feel your pain. It sounds like you're hanging on by teeth and nails. Part of the issue may be that you're exhausted. It's hard to think of new things to add when you're beat from just doing what you have to do every day! So here's what I can suggest that might help:
Hold a weekly one-on-one meeting with each employee, wherein you detail the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Make it 10 minutes (no more, no less) and set the timer. What they did right, what they did wrong and what just did not work. You're not picking on anyone, you're not allowing them to turn it into a bitch session and you're able to tell them how you want them to improve, short and sweet. 
I know it's hard to sell things people aren't familiar with. (I had to call my petit fours "tea cakes".) Is there any food that's unique and traditional in your area that no other restaurant sells? I started out as a little mobile bakery but now I'm almost exclusively fried pies because they're traditional to our area and sold well. So try selling something that people remember their older relatives making but don't want to make themselves. Put a yard sign out, letting everyone know that you're selling that.
As far as getting the kids in, you can either make it a hangout for teenagers (tough to do at the best of times) or offer to-go items that they want and could order over the phone or internet. Nachos, wings, funnel cakes, etc. But frankly it doesn't sound like you own a place that could ever possibly attract teens anyway. They're looking for plastic and you're real.
And finally ask yourself - is there a business in your area that you've never been in, even though you might need something from them? Why not? Does it seem unfriendly, ugly, hard to get into? Then, with this fresh eye, take a look at your own place. It may show you areas you need to change. Best of luck!
Junior Burger
Re:small town restaurant 2012/06/21 11:27:07
In small town restaurants, convenient to use different programs to help make the job a cook, waiter and bartender easier. For example, I know that there is a free program, which is used in small restaurants "TickTouch"