How do you know what makes a restaurant gain a repeat diner? My solution would be to look at which ones you would return too.
We used to frequent two restaurants when we lived in Melbourne, visiting both almost weekly. Their management style was so different that it was interesting to watch their business evolve and grow.
Restaurant number one was run by a husband and wife team who were committed to providing the best experience for their customers. They were there onsite every day, either together or solo. The staff appeared equally committed, and you always felt they were happy and willing to do what was needed to ensure your experience was memorable. The owners seemed to hover in the background and mingle with each table, creating a real relationship with each guest. The meals were of a high standard, and it really made you want to return. In addition to the owners always being around, the dining room itself was allocated two captains who also interacted with each table, ensuring all was well.
The whole business had a real family feel, and the staff turnover appeared minimal with each visit seeming like returning home. The owners really made an effort to look after both their staff and customers and in turn, created a very successful business. The place was busy every day and packed at peak times.
Restaurant number two, on the other hand, was the opposite. The business is owned by a first time operator who appears more interested in the title of 'owner' than actually immersing himself in the business and is rarely on site, and if he is, it's at peak times. The business is in the hands of an unhappy captain who takes their frustration out on the staff and happily tells customers of their problems within the place. Staff numbers are limited and are vocal about not wanting to stay because of the captain.
On one occasion, we arrived on opening, and the staff were about to settle down to their own lunch. An additional table arrived, and we all had to wait for them to finish their meals to be served! I can honestly say I have never seen that happen before! During service, the captain gets quite loud and very bossy, which doesn't help with morale, making it easy to see why staff are unhappy. All that aside, the food is good, and they seem busy enough. So which restaurant would you rather go to?
The moral of the story - as an owner, you really need to be part of the business and never rely heavily on staff to manage your business. No matter how good your team doesn't take away from the fact that you should have a clear understanding of what is truly going on in your business and if it is being managed how you want it to be.
So where are our restaurants now? The husband and wife team are currently enjoying a prosperous and well-deserved retirement, and restaurant number two is finding himself answerable to several restless investors.