How to Have a Successful Restaurant in 2021

To say that 2020 was a tough year for restaurant owners is probably an understatement. According to the National Restaurant Association:

  • More than 110,000 restaurants closed permanently or are slowly reopening, some due to the government’s and the Small Business Administration’s delayed response to a call for help
  • Compared to 2019, the industry lost approximately $240 billion in sales
  • Two million restaurant workers nationwide are still out of work, some receiving unemployment benefits that have become a disincentive to return to work (although that situation may change in Texas where on June 26, 2021, the State will terminate its participation in the Agreement Implementing the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act)

For the restaurants that have survived this roller coaster—often needing to operate with a reduced number of staff and a simplified menu—the road ahead is likely to have more rough spots. Nevertheless, there are tactics that can help pave the way to a successful restaurant in 2021.

Communicate with Customers

If you want customers to return and keep coming back, then stay in touch. Share messages about specials and other happenings on your social media and website. If you have customers’ contact information (more on how to collect this later), then regularly send them emails and texts. These touches of communication keep your customers informed about what’s going on at your restaurant, and it reminds them to visit or order from you.

Restaurant Near Me

Along with texts and emails, now is the time to lean in to local listings and Google My Business, a free business profile that allows you to connect with customers on Google Search and Maps. People that live or work near your restaurant are your target customers. More than ever, consumers want to support local businesses. Don’t miss out on opportunities to let diners know that you’re in the neighborhood!

Coupons and Deals

Some of your communication should incentivize diners to choose your restaurant. Try offering coupons or some kind of special deal that will “whet the appetite” for your menu. Once again, you can promote these offers on your website and social media pages, in posts on your Google Business Profile or through an app such as Grubhub, DoorDash or UberEats.

Online Ordering System

Digital ordering, online ordering, mobile ordering—call it whatever you like, but this is a must have for every restaurant in 2021 and beyond. What was a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic has become a necessary convenience that customers now expect. Be sure to select an online ordering program that allows you to collect customer data including names, email addresses and order history.  With this information, you can create targeted email marketing campaigns and other types of digital advertising to both retain customers and acquire new ones.

Delivery and Pickup Options

Even as people begin to get reacquainted and comfortable with indoor dining, successful restaurants in 2021 will need to continue offering takeout and delivery. Whether for the sake of convenience or safety, some customers will prefer these options. If you don’t have your own delivery drivers, there are several third-party delivery services for restaurants. For takeout, in-store pickup is a great option. However, if you can also provide curbside pickup, then you’ll be able to feed the customers that cannot or do not want to get out of their cars. (Think mom or dad with kids in car seats!)

Ghost Kitchens

Another delivery option to consider is a ghost kitchen, which isn’t as scary as it sounds. As the popularity of food delivery apps grew before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, so did ghost kitchens. They’re simply commercial kitchens where only delivery orders are prepared. There’s no place to walk up and order or sit down, and there are often several tenants using the space. Restaurants use ghost kitchens for different reasons. One may want to reach more customers in their own neighborhood while another might choose a ghost kitchen as a testing ground in a new location.

Easy Payment

You’ve done the marketing and made getting food from your restaurant as convenient as possible. Now it’s time to make it easy for customers to pay for their meal. Payment methods include:

  • Standard credit card process
  • A handheld POS device
  • A system that allows customers to order and pay from their smartphones with a mobile order and pay app or scan-to-pay

Regardless of the payment options your restaurant offers, the objective is always a quick and efficient checkout process.

Clean and Safe

Cleanliness will remain a necessity. Not that it ever wasn’t important, but post-pandemic customers want to see and know that your restaurant—the counters, the tables and chairs, the door handles, the salt and pepper shakers, the restrooms, EVERYTHING—is clean and disinfected. Furthermore, employees must wash their hands regularly, and if they are ill, then they must not show up for work. Reassuring customers that you and your team are doing everything possible to keep them safe and healthy will go a long way.

As a restaurateur, adaptability and flexibility are likely what got you through the past year. You’ll still need those characteristics in order to have a successful restaurant in 2021. You may also need a broker that specializes in restaurant real estate to help you find the best location for your business and to work with you on everything from leasing options to menu choices. Contact the Henry S. Miller Restaurant Group today!


The information contained in this article is general in nature and should not be construed as financial, tax or legal advice.  As with any financial or legal matter, consult your tax advisor and legal counsel.