Fine Dining Experts Share 4 Ways to Enhance Your New Fine Dining Business
Fine dining isn’t an easy job. There are many things you’d need to consider to build a great business—the pace, labor, and equipment necessary to operate. All of which may not be readily apparent until you’re already a few months into the business.
Therma° interviewed two prominent fine dining restaurateurs for tips on how they started their businesses so you can learn what you need to know to make your restaurant not only succeed—but also thrive.
We interviewed two major players in the fine dining scene. Sylvan Brackett, owner of Izakaya Rintaro in San Francisco, and Tom Creedon, CEO of Scoma's Restaurant in San Francisco, shared their insights on the essential building blocks behind each of their restaurants’ success.
1. You need to have strong menu
Fine dining is an experience that’s usually more unique, expensive, and cultivated compared to an average restaurant. Sylvan Brackett spoke about how tough building a menu can be when you are first starting.
“In the beginning, it’s tough and chaotic. It’s tempting to cut corners because you don’t have any customers, and it is expensive. But don’t cut any corners, it takes people a while to find something, and you could discover it—but stick to your guns.”
A great menu will attract customers and drive sales. There are several different types of menus suited for fine dining restaurants:
- Prix fixe: Set menus with limited options on multi-course meals
- A la carte: Allows guests to choose their course combinations
- Traditional entree Entrees include side orders that match (typically for more mainstream restaurants)
People usually seek a fine dining experience for special occasions. This means ensuring the quality of the food your restaurant serves is essential. Many restaurants in this field would locally source their ingredients, such as meats, seafood, and produce.
2. Employee retention is pivotal
Having a good team is essential to the success of any restaurant. Everyone must be on the same page and working towards the same goal—from your chefs to your waitstaff. Tom Creedon has had chefs, facilities managers, and bakers who’ve been on his team for more than 30 years.
Staff costs are one of the most significant expenses for any food business. Knowing how many team members you'd require to minimize your expenses and maximize customer satisfaction is critical. On average, staff sizes for fine dining restaurants have around one server for every five to six tables and four back-of-house staff members for every 50 tables.
“We work like hell to get set up, and then you have service, and it's crazy. Then you do it again the next day.”
Fine dining restaurants are open every day throughout the year, except for some closing on federal holidays. Having a reliable staff that can weather the storm of any season will set you up for success.
"Keeping staff long term is a huge priority for us, because I think a customer can feel it. You come in and you recognize the servers and you see the kitchen and recognize the cooks. Just by having them here for a long time, we make better food." —Sylvan Brackett
3. You need adequate storage processes for fresh produce
Since fine dining restaurants typically use locally owned fresh produce, like meat and seafood, reliable storage equipment is vital. Refrain from cutting corners on equipment because it could cost your business in the long run.
"It's good for credibility. To me, it's like cheap insurance." —Tom Creedon
Creedon also mentions how food poisoning and other health department issues can result from inadequate food storage equipment.
Heavy-duty equipment that can withstand wear and tear should be your priority. Here are examples of equipment that you’ll need:
- Ice Machine
- Prep utensils
The constant economic change may also shift your equipment needs with ongoing labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and “delivery first” models constantly rising.
“Getting systems together around constantly having food coming in, storing it properly, then prepping for the day, thinking two or three days in advance for some things that take a long time.” —Sylvan Brackett
Fresh inventory inside the walk-in cooler at Scoma's Restaurant in San Francisco
4. You need the right technology
There’s a substantial amount of technology to consider for the front and back of the house. Automation has helped streamline operations and assist staff with working efficiently. Automation also helps reduce labor costs by freeing up team resources on what matters—your menu and guests.
Examples of technology you may require:
- POS terminal
- Kitchen display screens
- Reservation management software
- Automated inventory management
Tom Creedon uses smart energy management technology Therma° for his equipment. He shared how it helped him save inventory and prevent breakdowns.
It’s time add smart cooling to your restaurant’s repertoire
Therma° builds cooling management technology for the food service industry. In fact, they’ve helped a number of restaurants across the country reduce inventory waste, mitigate equipment breakdowns, and reduce overall electricity consumption.
Help your business succeed through smart sustainability—try Therma° today.