Opening and running your own business comes with many challenges, one of which is working out what your product offering and point of difference will be.
This is part of the Brand of your business and represents the ‘heart’ of what you want your customers to buy and enjoy.
Your Brand also represents what it is that You want to stock or make and ultimately sell.
As I’ve said before, being true to your Brand is incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make innovations and appeal to as many customers as possible.
So, I’m sorry, this is going to hurt, but you see it’s not about you, it’s about us.
Unless you’re already rolling in millions, your business isn’t a hobby, and you need to make sure you don’t let your choice of products get too personal.
Just because you happen to love pickled puffin sandwiches, because they remind you of your visit to Iceland, doesn’t mean your customers are going to as well, regardless of how much you push them
The danger is putting too much of what You like into your menu, or even what you think people should be buying.
Ultimately the result is you’ll lose money as your customers go in search of what it is THEY want.
The Emperor’s new clothes
The other danger with this problem, is that you may well have a core of customers, small in number, but who share your love of niche products. This is especially prevalent among ‘trends’ in food and drink as well as other hospitality staff that come and visit your business. These customers may well sing your praises over your choice of super expensive coffee, or rare wines or whiskeys or menu items.
You may well find your ego being pumped up by staff and the niche brigade, telling you how great it is that you got such and such a product in, and of course, you’ll probably crack open a bottle or dish out a tasting portion, but once they’ve all had a taste and maybe you’ve sold a couple you’ll be scratching your head when the stock sits there for months on end until you have to sling it, or discount it heavily to try and shift it.
Avoiding Dead Stock
Fortunately, avoiding clogging up your menu with items that don’t move is fairly simple, if you follow a few simple tips.
- Listen to ALL of your customers
Take the time to try to ‘table touch’ or talk to as many different customers as possible – don’t just get comfortable with your fan club. Ask them what they like, and maybe even what they enjoy elsewhere.
- Use your sales data
There’s really no excuse that you aren’t looking at your sales data to influence your purchasing. This is the black and white truth of what your customers are buying, and you should base your ordering around it. Stubbornly ordering the things you like, when the figures show they simply aren’t shifting is practically criminal.
- Read your reviews, especially the critical ones – and DON’T take it personally.
Reading tough reviews in a detached manner allows you an insight into mistakes that you may have made, menu items you scrapped that people miss, or items they think you should be stocking. If a review is tough (but fair) attempt to reply, thanking them for taking the time to review. You might get a repeat visit from them, and at the very least you’ll look like you take feedback – and your customers – seriously.
- Listen to your staff or your franchisees.
Using your team’s knowledge and enthusiasm when it comes to selecting what you stock is invaluable. Treat them like extended eyes and ears – as they’re probably visiting your competitors or other similar businesses to yours. They’ll hear who’s stocking what, and they’ll know what customers are talking about and buying.
- Be realistic
Setting yourself up to compete with a 300 pax, 2-hat restaurant in the middle of the city, when your business is 50 pax and based in a small suburb is unrealistic. Detaching your pride and being honest to yourself about the local footfall and socio-economic mix should influence your brand your business and your menu. If you do want to challenge Heston Blumenthal or be the ‘Burbs next Gordon Ramsey check out the next tip.
- Measured Introduction
If, despite the figures and the advice, you still insist on introducing a particular product to your menu, do so in a measured way. Don’t go nuts and order cases and cases of a product, (this is where Reps LOVE the minimum order trick by the way)
Be sensible and order a few portions or a single item if possible. Measure the sales (and the wastage, if any) And if it simply isn’t happening, suck it up and ditch it.