When my dad and I first decided to open a restaurant in the 1980s, we wanted to do it all. We served everything from breakfast to dinner. Though the first effort was a success, we quickly learned we really excelled at breakfast and lunch.
When considering a niche, it can be hard to give up the other dayparts. As a restaurant owner, you may worry about a loss of revenue. You may be concerned about finding staff to work the specific hours you want to operate. You may even have an emotional attachment to some of the menu items you are choosing to part with.
But after three decades of operating solely in the breakfast and lunch space, I would love to share four things I have learned about the benefits of embracing a niche as a restaurant owner.
A Quality Product Based on Expertise
I will start with the most important part of any restaurant concept, which is obviously the quality of the food. You can have a great location, fabulous service, and a flashy menu, but if the food isn’t good, you won’t develop a loyal customer base.
Finding a niche can truly help you develop the excellence you are looking for. This focus on one part of the day will allow you and your staff to become experts in preparation. You will have more time to develop menu items that appeal to your audience. This includes finding the freshest and highest quality ingredients available.
Restaurants that are open all day, every day, won’t have the time to crack eggs or shred cheese. That’s why many restaurants rely on the convenience of pre-packaged products. It’s not because they don’t see the value of fresh food, it’s because the staff simply doesn’t have the time while running to serve the next rush.
Since your menu will not be as vast when you find a niche, you can concentrate on granular details. You can think about portion sizes and experiment with specials. You can also afford to spend more money on quality since you are not stocking your kitchen for an entire day.
Staffing Your Restaurant
Staffing is one of the benefits of a niche that often goes overlooked. Finding great managers is one of the biggest challenges for a restaurant owner. You have to find someone who you trust to run your business while you are not there. And if your restaurant is open from morning to night, you will have to find multiple people who can fill the management roles.
Operating on a niche schedule means you only need one manager. You can put a great deal of energy into finding the best person for the job and training that person to understand every aspect of the business model.
I’ve also found it’s easier to hire cooks, waitstaff, and hostesses with limited hours. The people who apply to work for this kind of restaurant are often looking for stability. They don’t want to work three evenings and then two mornings a week. They don’t want the random call to come in and work a night shift that could cause them to miss a family event. Niche scheduling allows a restaurant owner to promise a specific shift to all workers, which can increase applications and retention.
The limited hours model also increases the work-life balance for everyone from the restaurant owners to the kitchen staff. Our restaurant closes at 3 p.m. each day, so parents have the chance to pick up their kids from school. They can also commit to coaching Little League or taking college classes at night.
This perk is an amazing value in a business that is known for its crazy hours and backbreaking work. Having chunks of the day when the restaurant is closed provides the restaurant owner with a chance to step back and relax.
I understand some people will say this balance will cost them in revenue, but many recent studies show how rest and leisure activities can actually increase your capacity for creative thinking. Taking a step back from the business may allow you easier access to problem-solving solutions.
Work-life balance isn’t a priority for everyone, but finding a niche and sticking to it, can lead to massive benefits in the long term.
Focusing on one or two meals a day gives you the chance to build a brand that resonates with a target audience. Restaurants that serve all day often struggle with an identity crisis. It can be hard to know how and who to target.
Finding a niche allows you a chance to research who your potential customers are and what they want from the particular meal or meals you offer. This knowledge will lead to a more targeted approach.
For example, if you own a pub that specializes in fantastic dinner and drink options, you don’t have to worry about marketing to a family of four that loves a great breakfast on Sunday mornings. Knowing your audience and your niche makes it way easier to develop a marketing plan that works.
Focused marketing can increase your customer base while keeping your budget in line.
Finding a niche daypart to focus on can be a challenge for restaurant owners who want to make as much money as possible and worry about “giving up” breakfast or lunch or dinner. But we’ve found, through more than 30 years of experience, that an intense focus is better for the overall growth of the business. It also creates a better and more enjoyable life.