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Today's customer has changed. Your restaurant should too!

Foodies. connoisseurs. Gourmands. Today's restaurant goer loves their cuisine. The entire experience is important to them, from the atmosphere, to the plating, to the customer service.

Today's customers also enjoy sharing their experiences with others. This feedback could be via word of mouth, shared on social media, or posted on review sites like Facebook, Google, and Yelp.

Whether you're considering opening an establishment or you're a veteran restaurant owner, it's important to step back and look at how to cultivate a 21st century eatery. Our guide can help.

This FREE resource is brought to you by Alco Windows and Doors, a leader in installing impact products in South Florida.

We know the challenges you face because we work right alongside you, providing quality service and exceptional customer support for all your impact window and door needs. We're confident this guide will help you refresh your restaurant goals in a meaningful way in the coming year.

1: Are You Cut Out to Be a Restaurant Owner?

The restaurant industry made over $863 billion in 2019.

If you're passionate about food, then naturally, you may be curious about starting a restaurant of your own. But the reality is, it takes much more than love for the culinary arts to be successful in this industry.

Are you wondering if you're cut out to be a successful restaurant owner? Then keep reading. We'll discuss the important questions you need to ask yourself before you start this venture.


Close-up of various sweet foods on table with open signboard in cafeteria


1) Am I Offering Something People Want?

You may have wonderful ideas for starting a new restaurant, but if it's not a niche that needs to be filled, you'll have a hard time filling your dining area.

For instance, if you live somewhere where people are hesitant to try new things, they may not be so receptive to a new sushi restaurant. Or if you're located in a place that's oversaturated with Italian restaurants, you don't want to open up yet another one.

You need to consider the demographic and offer them something that they'll enjoy and want repeatedly.


Pretty waitresses working with a smile at the coffee shop


2) Am I a People Person?

In addition to providing good food, you must provide quality customer service as well. Otherwise, you won't get repeat customers.

You'll have to be good at speaking with diners and accommodating any complaints they may have. You'll also need to train your staff to have the same standard of service so all customers leave with a smile.

If you're not used to dealing with people and dislike it, you might be able to get away with only having your staff deal with customers. However, with small and new restaurants, patrons always appreciate when the owner themselves make an effort to speak with them and ensure their dining experience is the best one possible.


Learn more in our blog post: Mama Mia! Are You Cut Out to Be a Restaurant Owner?



2: Starting a Restaurant in Florida

There are now more than 1 million restaurants in the United States.


As the number of people who dine out continues to rise, more restaurants popped into existence to meet consumer demand. 

Nine in 10 consumers enjoy going to a restaurant, and 3 in 4 people say that dining out with friends and family is preferred over cooking at home. If you have a passion for food and are wanting to tap into this market by starting a restaurant, there are many details you must attend to.

Opening a restaurant requires a lot of time and work. You may have many questions about how to start a restaurant because of how daunting the process seems.

If you're looking to become a restaurant owner, then keep reading. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take an in-depth look at all the essential steps you need to attend to if you want to get your restaurant launched and be successful.

Here are our top essential steps you should follow to get a restaurant in Florida up and running.


Neon sign in window of restaurant or shop that sells fresh fish


1) Develop a Brand

The first step in establishing your restaurant is developing your brand. Determining the concept behind your restaurant includes:

  • deciding the style of your restaurant
  • choosing the type of food you want to service
  • picking what kind of ambiance you restaurant exudes

A brand is everything. It is the driving force behind the personality and mission of your restaurant.

The style of restaurant you choose will help dictate the type of food you serve. Do you want to be a quick-service restaurant or a midscale or upscale one? A midscale restaurant might be a casual family dining restaurant, whereas an upscale restaurant might boast excellent Italian cuisine.


variety of plated cuisines


2) Choose Your Cuisine Style

Once you know what you want your restaurant's brand to be, you need to narrow down your cuisine style.

For example, let's say you're going to an Italian restaurant. You need to choose whether this is going to be a casual family Italian restaurant, or maybe it's a reservation-only upscale spot. While both of these restaurants might serve Italian food, they're going to have drastic differences in the type of food available.


Learn more in our blog post: How to Start a Restaurant in Florida: Your Step-By-Step Guide



3: Updating Your Marketing Strategy

60% of new restaurants go out of business in their first year.

The restaurant industry is a fierce and competitive landscape. About 60% of new restaurants shutter in the first 12 months. The odds of failure rise to 80% by a restaurant's fifth anniversary.

If you're a restaurant owner, you're no doubt wondering what you can do to increase business. Digital technology has transformed how marketing works.

Offering delicious dishes alone is no longer enough. Nor is relying on word-of-mouth advertising. Much of the success of a restaurant comes down to how it handles its marketing strategy.

Let's explore the top restaurant marketing strategies that will help you succeed in the industry.


restaurant website on mobile


1) Optimize Your Website

Your restaurant should have a website and be optimized for mobile devices. If it isn't yet, that's a grave error. Over 80% of customers search for a restaurant on their smartphone.

Your website offers a prospective customer a peek into your restaurant. They should be able to browse the menu and find your restaurant's hours of operation with ease.

Other important features your website should include are:

  • Newsletter sign-up
  • Button for ordering online or placing pickup orders
  • Button for reservations
  • Social media icons
  • Links to gift cards or a rewards program

Every restaurant likes its wait staff to upsell. Your website should work to do the same.


Facebook Likes with glass and fork

2) Join Social Networks

Instagram continues to be an immense and popular social media platform. Over 1 billion people use Instagram every month.

One of the best restaurant promotional tactics you can engage in is posting beautiful visuals of your dishes. If you're able to create visual content that is stunning and makes people's mouths water, you'll be fast on your way to drawing in new customers.

Many people also enjoy posting pictures of their meals to social media. If your restaurant is well known for delivering dishes that are aesthetic masterpieces, you'll be able to tap into the foodie market.

Twitter is another platform that shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can use Twitter to offer special promotions. For example, a customer could mention the Twitter promo to get a free appetizer.

Twitter has what are called hashtags. These hashtags allow you to group tweets onto the same channel. Other people who search for the hashtag will see these tweets, and can also partake in tweeting on the hashtag.

Your restaurant can use a hashtag (example: #RestaurantName) to host chats and help spread promotional events.


Learn more in our blog post: Restaurant Marketing Strategies 101




4: Refreshing Your Layout

In 2018, Florida was home to an astounding 41,366 eating and drinking locations.

The restaurant industry in Florida is a healthy one! Not only does it provide thousands of individuals with careers, but it plays a vital role in the local economy, city- and state-wide.

These restaurants contributed to a $50.1 billion industry and supplied 12 percent of the state with employment. 

While this is fantastic news for consumers, it lends itself to a little competition for business owners. What's one significant way that you, as a restaurant owner, can appeal to crowds and generate buzz? With a modern, stunning restaurant layout.

Having a contemporary restaurant design is crucial to your business. It increases foot track, improves exposure (think of all the Instagram posts!), and generates a positive customer buzz. These things are all crucial to the success of your Florida restaurant.

Without further ado, we'll highlight some of the trending designs in restaurant layouts. Consider making some upgrades to stay current with the times.



Open concept restaurant


1) Allow for a Visible Kitchen

Many restaurants are considering this fun update that allows guests to see all the action going on in the kitchen!

Instead of keeping your kitchen behind-the-scenes, you can consider making it front-and-center. Guests receive food from waitstaff, and as they order food, they can watch their meals being prepared right before their eyes. Chefs can deliver the food directly to the guests, even explaining things on the plate if they wish.

Not only does this provide an exciting and intimate experience for customers, but it also encourages kitchen staff to remain up-to-par with cleanliness. Let's admit—the odds of a chef sneezing into his or her elbow and continuing their work without hand-washing goes way down when customers are looking right at them. 


outdoor restaurant space


2) Promote Fun With a Lush Outdoor Space

Speaking of fun updates, what other trend is encouraging restaurant-goers to loosen up and enjoy themselves more fully?

Outdoor spaces like beer gardens or patios are becoming increasingly more popular. They give guests a lovely space to have their restaurant experience right outside with nature. On beautiful days, your customers will love sitting outside, soaking up the sun, or feeling the cool breeze.

If you have the means, you can even consider installing a garage door near the front, back, or side of your establishment. Perhaps you can leave the garage door open on days with more beautiful weather, allowing even the inside guests to benefit from the temperatures and sunshine. 

This upgrade is hard if you don't have space—but if there's even a few tables and chairs set up outside next to some lush greenery, you can promote the outdoor experience. If you have an unused dirt lot, considering putting down fresh sod and planting some low-maintenance shrubbery. 

Encourage people to play outside by adding games like a big Jenga set up or cornhole.  


Learn more in our blog post: Stunning Restaurant Layout and Design Ideas to Create Buzz



5: Essential Restaurant Technology

When was the last time you considered your current restaurant technology?

Everything from your POS system to how well your place insulates heat has an impact. Yet many restaurant owners put off updating these things. In terms of investments, this can be a huge mistake, especially for a restaurant owner just starting out.

How reliable is your website's ordering system? How well would your storefront hold up in a hurricane? How fast is your in-restaurant wifi? These details matter to the 21st-century customer, and you need to have a plan to meet these needs!

Let's look at simple, smart technology-driven updates your restaurant should implement to increase foot traffic.


Empty plate and tableware with online order menu


1) Ordering Online Facilities

If your restaurant offers takeout ordering, there's a lot to be gained from creating a seamless digital platform. More and more often, customers expect simple, intuitive internet ordering services.

For a restaurant offering online ordering technology, the benefits are numerous. These can include, among many others:

  • Increased Earnings: Placing an order online helps customers engage with your business more efficiently. Restaurant or not, anything that pulls down walls between you and a paying customer is for the best. Not having to order over the phone enables your customers to buy more readily buy additional items and pay with fewer obstacles.
  • Data Management: Any orders placed digitally provide you an opportunity to analyze data. Use this information to your advantage to discover who your most consistent buyers are, how often they order, and what dishes are most popular. Then, adjust your marketing efforts accordingly!

Integrating an online ordering service is easier than you might expect. Third-party services streamline the process, giving you the tools to process digital orders. A quality plugin will integrate with your existing restaurant technology for a streamlined new system. 

Look into popular options such as ChowNowMenuDrive, or GrubHub to begin your online ordering service today!


restaurant POS


2) A Digital POS

Point of Sale, or POS, technology is a standard part of the service industry's makeup. The vast majority of restaurants use POS systems to manage their sales process.

POS technology has become more sophisticated. Modern systems, for instance, can integrate with desktop tablets, phones, and other consumer devices. Customers and servers alike can easily navigate, order, and pay for their meals via these services. 

Imagine the convenience of allowing a customer to pay right from their table, without waiting for a credit card to disappear into a back room for long periods! Your servers save time processing payments as well. 

Check out the following highly-reviewed digital POS options for your restaurant today:


Learn more in our blog post: Your Guide to Essential Restaurant Technology



6: Managing Feedback & Reviews

84% of consumers say they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations

In this digital age, word of mouth has shifted to digital. It's more important than ever to maintain a pristine online presence.

Even if you're not interested in social media and digital review sites, a large portion of your customers relies on these services. Learn to navigate the ins and outs of managing your digital presence or risk an out-of-control reputation. You NEED to keep up with what people have to say about you in the digital world.

But how exactly do you go about managing your restaurant reviews? Can you do anything about negative ones?

Read on to find out how you can keep your restaurant's digital presence functional and pristine.




1) Claim Your Restaurants Online

If you haven't done so already, get online and claim your restaurants on review sites. They include:

  • Yelp
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • TripAdvisor
  • Zagat

If you don't do this, you risk other people fraudulently claiming your restaurant as their own. This issue can lead to some trouble with your digital presence. Also, unclaimed restaurants on these platforms attract fewer customers and give off an impression of lackluster ownership.

If a fraudulent individual has claimed your restaurant, you can always contact the website with evidence that you're the actual restaurant owner. This step should usually get you the account back. But you can avoid all this trouble if you claim your restaurant as soon as possible on these platforms.

Now that you're all set up on these review sites, use the following advice for maintaining an excellent online reputation.


Restaurant Review Interaction


2) Engage With Your Customers

It's easy to take your customers' positive reviews for granted. When you see patron after patron leaves you 5-star reviews, it's easy to become complacent and not respond with appreciation to these reviews. That's a huge mistake. 

Customers like to be heard, so make sure you respond to as many reviews as you can. If they have a question or leave a funny comment, feel free to answer their inquiries, and even show a little wit yourself.


Wendys Twitter Screenshot

For example, Wendy's has earned a reputation for responding in a sassy manner to many Twitter users. They aren't afraid to be witty and bold, which has garnered them much digital attention.

Now, we're not saying you have to follow in Wendy's footsteps. But finding your brand voice and sticking with it online can be beneficial.

If responding to reviews seems out of your comfort zone, it may be worth hiring an external organization to maintain your social media and review platform accounts. 

They can handle both positive and negative reviews in the best ways possible. It can also free up your time to take care of other restaurant needs.


Learn more in our blog post: How to Manage Restaurant Reviews & Keep a Pristine Digital Presence



7: Updating Equipment

52% of restaurant owners report back-of-house maintenance as a top source of stress.

This number is quite high, and as a restaurant owner, you want your business to avoid costly repairs and delays in service speed.

Part of doing so is ensuring your restaurant equipment is up-to-date and efficient. That means you may have to replace them at some point.

If you're planning on purchasing restaurant equipment soon, then you'll want to keep reading. We'll tell you what's hot (and what's not) for 2020.


Jackson RACKSTARL LR 44 ER 2083

1) 3-Stage Dishwashing Machines

Have you been relying on your poor (human) dishwasher to handle the large volumes of dishes that come through your kitchen? Then they may be having a tough time keeping up with the three stages for cleaning those plates: wash, rinse, and sanitize. 

Additionally, it may be taking them quite some time to get through. By the time those dishes finish, another round of dirty dishes needs attending.

Streamline this process by getting a 3-stage dishwashing machine. It can wash, rinse, and sanitize all your dishes, but in larger volumes and in a shorter amount of time.

Many commercial dishwashers go through a whole cycle in under 2 minutes. Simply pull down the hood to start the cycle.

With one of these, you can free up one of your employees for more important tasks.


Salamander Broiler

2) Salamander Broilers

If you need something to finish off your platings in just the perfect way, then your restaurant needs a salamander broiler. You can quickly fire it up to do things like melt cheese, brown casseroles, or broil salmon. You can even use a salamander broiler to reheat food that's been pre-cooked!

If you find yourself getting high volumes of food orders, then salamander broilers can help out in a pinch, as they're used for medium to high-volume settings. So if you don't have one in your kitchen already, then you need to get one pronto!

Learn more in our blog post: What's Hot and What's Not in Restaurant Equipment for 2020



8: Dealing With Inspections

Every year, more than 48,000 health inspections take place in Florida restaurants.

These reviews are intended to keep both employees, and the public safe and are a routine part of most workplaces. In the restaurant industry, that means enforcing regulations that prevent communicable diseases.

For Florida restaurant inspections, the list of regulations and potential violations to avoid is long. But knowing these in advance can help you prepare for the day that the health inspector shows up at your door. 

Know what to look for and the potential consequences of not following the rules with this guide on restaurant inspections in Florida.


General Information on Florida Restaurant Inspections

Florida restaurant inspections are regulated by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) Division of Hotels and Restaurants. This Division also regulates mobile food vehicles, public food service events, and caterers.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation calls for inspections twice per year. These scheduled inspections are never actually scheduled and often occur without notice.

If an inspector notes some specific violations or issues, a restaurant may be subject to more than the regular two annual inspections. If a customer makes a complaint, this can also prompt an inquiry. Reviews falling outside of scheduled inspections are called "focused inspections."

In Florida, restaurant owners are not required to post the result of their examinations for the public to view. 


Inspector holding a food safety card


Florida State Food Safety Regulations

Across all states, local laws dictate the frequency and regulations of inspections. Inspectors ensure that food stays safe from contamination and cross-contamination. Inspectors also look for measures taken by food handlers and environmental qualities.

A Florida restaurant inspection involves four areas. These areas are:

  • Foodborne illness risk factors and public health interventions. For example, food protection during preparation, storage, and display.
  • Good retail practices. For example, rooms and equipment need to have adequate ventilation.
  • Food temperatures. Food temperatures shouldn't fall below 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures are where food becomes susceptible to bacteria.
  • Other items related to proper business operation. For example, inspecting the primary water source to the restaurant.


Welcome to FL Street SIgn


Florida's Violation System

Health violations or on a three-tier system:

Basic Violations are the least severe breach in the rating system. It points to a need for monitoring some updated practices. These updates could relate to food labeling practices or proper food and equipment storage.

An Intermediate Violation involves an aspect that could cause food-borne illness if unchecked. An example of this would be using a sink intended for washing hands to store ice.

High Priority Violations are the most serious. These violations can lead to an establishment closure. They reflect a grave concern related to the potential for food-borne illness. An example of this would be evidence of cockroach activity or vermin found on site.


Learn more in our blog post: What to Expect During Florida Restaurant Inspections



9: Renovating Your Space

According to the National Restaurant Association, it’s typical for restaurants to do some kind of a renovation every five to seven years.

Looking at ways to increase traffic to your restaurant is a top priority for many owners, as the vast majority of people visit a restaurant to experience delicious food and a great atmosphere. 

However, your restaurant may begin to show signs of age over time, which makes it more challenging to attract new customers. Fortunately, a few simple renovation ideas can help you maximize the number of visitors to your restaurant while also helping to create an unforgettable experience.

Here are five renovation tips to help boost traffic to your restaurant.


restaurant table


#1) Update Your Furnishings

Keeping your furnishings up to date is an excellent way to make a strong first impression with patrons at your restaurant. On the other hand, worn-out tables, chairs, and benches will create a less than stellar reputation for your business. 

Always providing top-quality furnishings will increase the likelihood of repeat business and is a small investment that can make a big difference on the bottom line for your restaurant. Utilizing used restaurant furniture is a great way to save money while updating the look of your establishment. 

An excellent option is  Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies. Their online store features consistently low prices and has built a reputation for quality equipment.



Restaurant WIndow


#2) Invest in Commercial Impact Windows

Another way to boost traffic to your restaurant is to invest in commercial impact windows. These windows are a fantastic way to increase curb appeal while also providing the ultimate protection against severe weather. 

In addition to superior protection against severe weather, impact windows come with a long list of additional benefits, including: 

  • Insurance discounts 
  • Noise dampening 
  • UV filtering

Commercial impact windows are available in a wide range of styles to match any restaurant style. Consider them an excellent long-term investment.


Learn more in our blog post: 5 Restaurant Renovation Tips to Boost Customer Traffic



10: Upgrading Your Doors & Windows

How old are the windows and doors in your restaurant?

Given the importance of curb appeal for most restaurant marketing models, people make split judgments about your establishment by its exterior. Old, outdated windows and doors can create a rundown, dingy look that may be repelling customers. 

Also, old windows and doors can cost restaurant owners money in other ways. Single pane glass and old, inefficient frames bleed money on climate control and create areas of drafty, uncomfortable seating. A lack of modern hardware can also annoy customers with unnecessary external noise and glare, creating a less than ideal dining experience. 

So you probably want to invest in an upgrade—and when you do, 

Modern windows and doors offer a wealth of benefits for your business. Let's take a look at how upgrading your restaurant windows and doors can be a smart investment for your restaurant. We'll look at impact windows in particular, as these products offer the broadest range of benefits.


Restaurant windows in the rain


1) Protection Against Both Man and Nature

The immediate on-label benefit of impact windows is, of course, protection against damages caused by inclement weather. A storm throwing a relatively small branch, rock, or hailstone through a window not only damages the exterior, but it also exposes the interior of your building to further damage.

Remember, a broken door or window in a storm isn't just a broken feature; in many cases, the cost of the item itself is small compared to the broader damage a structure breach can cause.

Impact windows also make it significantly more difficult for someone to break into your establishment after hours quickly and without raising the alarm, only by featuring a more robust construction.

The "secret sauce" to impact windows and doors is the inner construction of the glass, which is made from strong-binding, sturdy, and flexible vinyl materials like ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and polyvinyl butyral (PVB).

The inner layer of EVA or PVB can range in thicknesses, but the thicker the inner layer, the more expensive the window.

The upshot to a thicker layer is that you'll have much more protection, and your window will be able to take more of an impact without breaking a sweat.


Decorated restaurant windows


2) Improved Building Aesthetics

Modernizing your windows can make your restaurant look better, inside and out, by carefully controlling visibility, lighting, and the design of the window itself. 

There's a reason the vast majority of restaurants, from fast food to high-class fine dining establishments, are surrounded by windows. Customers love natural lighting and a pleasing view of the outside. Individuals walking by outside can view the inside, from your decor to the food. Both of these aspects act as a natural advertisement. Improving the view with better windows and doors can only help you!


Learn more in our blog post: 5 Benefits of Upgrading Your Restaurant's Windows and Doors



Now's the Time. 

Refresh your restaurant by investing in impact windows and doors. Your investment will:

  • Increase curb appeal and foot traffic
  • Secure your property from both break-ins and severe weather
  • Impove HVAC efficiency
  • Provide UV filtering
  • Decrease external noise and create a warmer interior atmosphere

Trust the best in South Florida for your next renovation or retrofit project. For more than 30 years, Alco Windows and Doors has provided top notch sales and service for residents and business owners. Your satisfaction is our goal.

Contact us today to begin a conversation. We can't wait to hear from you!

I'm Luis, the owner of Alco Windows and Doors. Your satisfaction is my goal, so installing anything less than a premium window or door would be contrary to Alco's mission.

Partner with us with confidence. You have my guarantee on a job well done!


Luis Alvarez Founder - Alco Windows and Doors