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Small Chain, Big Impact
Prasad Vemulapalli | February 16, 2023

10 Unique Ways To Differentiate Your Small Business Restaurant Chain


Contrary to popular belief, the restaurant business has always been one of the most competitive business ventures. This has only worsened in the past decade because more and more restaurants and "cloud kitchens" pop up daily. This, coupled with the inevitable presence of big restaurant chains, makes it very difficult for small, organically formed restaurants to make their presence felt.
In this article, we have pointed out ten ways small business restaurants can punch way above their weight and compete with the best. We have elaborated on some simple yet effective tactics that are easy to incorporate and might pay dividends to small-scale restaurant owners. Read on to find out more.

1. Aim for a Unique USP

Small-scale restaurants can never compete with the big guns of the food industry in terms of outlook and overall image, even when they have a similar appearance and appeal. That is why it is essential to find the right USP.
This does not mean you have to aim to be over-the-top or shouty. Just simple adjustments like the predominant food style, ambiance, or ingredients can add a touch of uniqueness to your restaurant's overall appeal. Restaurant owners must find this USP, and if it works, they must embrace it, which will help their restaurant business stand out amongst the competition.

2. Food Quality

For a restaurant business to thrive, one of the most important aspects to get right is the taste and food quality. Although this point may seem self-evident, a shocking number of restaurants are more concerned with optics and advertisement than with food quality.
Many small restaurant businesses fall prey to this deadly trap, where they focus more on the food and less on the flavor. In this case, restaurateurs must recognize that, at the end of the day, a customer’s primary concern is the food and how it tastes. Good-quality produce and ingredients skillfully prepared by talented chefs will instantly elevate your restaurant's business.

3. Know Your Competition

To fend off fierce competition successfully, one must know what they are up against. In other words, you, as a small restaurant business owner, must know your competition. The ambiance they are providing, the food quality, etc. 

Here, it is essential to note that you don't have to replicate your competition. For example, if your competition is a fine dining restaurant, you can be the alternative and provide a relaxed surf and turf menu.

4. Online Ordering System

The pandemic years have had a massive impact on restaurant businesses across the globe, especially in terms of the online ordering system. More and more customers prefer to order in, making the online ordering system an absolute must for any up-and-coming restaurant.
A well-managed online ordering system can not only help your restaurant stand out, but it can also give it a boost in sales. Online ordering systems are also a great way to diversify your customer base and bring more people to your restaurant. Additionally, once you have a proper ordering system, you can save money on food items or offer further discounts.

5. Incorporate Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs have existed for a while now, and in our opinion, they are one of the most important innovations to grow a restaurant business. For the uninitiated, "loyalty program" refers to a unique program incorporated by businesses that offer certain perks or advantages to loyal customers. A loyalty program is a fantastic way to acquire and retain new customers.
For small-scale restaurant owners, a successful loyalty program can mean offering food item discounts or free occasional meals to loyal customers. Restaurateurs can use customer data to offer special deals on essential days like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. A successful loyalty program can help you stand out in big restaurant chains.

6. Market Your Restaurant Business

Evidently, small-scale restaurants can’t compete with big restaurant chains in marketing and advertising. But the modern social media boom has somewhat leveled the playing field. Social media posts are a great way to reach and expand your customer base organically and with little to no investment.
Small restaurant owners can hire social media managers to develop and create their social media presence. You can post menu details, the best dish pictures, or discount offers to engage your customer base. Another fantastic advantage of having an excellent social media footprint is that it allows for honest customer feedback. This can help you fine-tune your restaurant business to better cater to your audience.

7. Develop A Dedicated App System

Now, this might be a big step for some small restaurants, but it is still important to point out that having a dedicated app makes a huge overall difference. One of the biggest advantages of having a proprietary mobile app is that it will help you better incorporate a separate "loyalty system." Additionally, the online ordering process will be much more streamlined and efficient, and most importantly, it will help with customer retention.
Third-party food-ordering apps charge hefty commissions. Small-scale restaurants with native apps can save on these commissions and offer exciting offers and deals to the customer via the app. This can help you differentiate your small restaurant business from the competition.

8. Menu & Pricing

For a restaurant to pop off and stand out amongst the crowd, it must have an exciting menu with the right pricing. This also means small-scale restaurants must keep their menus refreshed with exciting items. It not only adds a bit of intrigue to the restaurant but also encourages repeat visits from loyal customers. Restaurant owners must ensure that these menu changes are not so drastic as to put off some loyal customers.
Furthermore, restaurant owners must know the customers who generally frequent their establishments. This will help them gauge their customer base so they can price the meals better, making them more attractive to the customers.

9. Integrate Local Produce

A lot of modern-day restaurants are more inclined to offer exotic dishes that are not authentic and eventually end up being a stale representation. Small restaurants can offer to integrate local produce and ingredients into their menu. In the long run, this can be a fantastic USP for the restaurant.
Additionally, local produce is cheaper than the exotic alternatives and tastes much more delicious. Hence, integrating local produce and food items can help your restaurant stand out from other restaurants serving the same old burgers and fries.

10. Provide The Best Service

At the end of the day, the restaurant business is a service. Hence, restaurants need to provide good customer service to their customers. This can be done with the help of a well-curated restaurant and staff experienced in hospitality services.
For small-scale restaurant businesses, hiring a large staff might take a lot of work. It can help to provide hospitality courses for their team, which will help them better cater to the customers. A restaurant with a polite and engaging staff will always attract and retain customers, making it popular among the sea of competition.

To Conclude

Running a successful small-scale restaurant business is challenging, especially with so much competition. Restaurateurs must be creative to differentiate themselves from the competition. These tips can help you push your restaurant into that elusive, unique space of popularity and profitability. 

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