Soft opening is a great way to open a restaurant – but what does it mean and what are the advantages?
Soft opening basically means quietly opening a restaurant without any buzz and advertising. For customers it will mean that your restaurant is just starting out and they use to be more accepting if some mistakes associated with first days or weeks of operating would occur.
When you start with marketing from the beginning, most of them will think that your restaurant is already in the desirable state and any flaws can get you some bad reviews. This will hurt a lot since that’d be your first reviews which could later discourage potential customers considering a visit.
Employees always need some time to get used to the routine – soft opening can be a sort of training in a real world without much pressure. It’s especially beneficial if you’re doing something new way like we do – we have a unique restaurant and order management software that handles almost every aspect of operating a restaurant. It was new to everybody so naturally it took some time until employees understood how the new system works.
Also our menu consisted just of a few items on the Day 1 to make sure that our pizza artists will master each food item before moving on to the next one. If you had some sort of huge opening it would be really weird to have just 5 food items. With soft opening it’s perfectly fine.
Relatively big number of orders from the Day 1 would make it difficult to get used to the system and cause a chaos too, because what may be easy at 5 orders per hour may become difficult to manage at 20 orders per hour. With soft opening the number of orders will gradually grow every day so you will eventually get to the point of having 20 orders per hour without any headaches.
Thanks to our restaurant order and management software we’ve been able to find out which menu items were underperforming and needed replacement. For example we’ve seen that plain pizza isn’t selling very well, so we’ve decided to replace it with breadsticks (which is very similar) and suddenly the sales went up.
We’ve also experimented with various promotions and sales (very easy to set up in our management software) to find out what works without some kind of investment. If it didn’t work, never mind – it’s just a soft opening after all!
Soft opening will also reveal problems you haven’t thought of before starting a restaurant and can save you from an embarrassment and lost face from a lot of customers.
Another advantage is a possibility to find out how well the word of mouth works and how many people will visit your restaurant without any marketing. It can give you an idea towards the future which kind of customers comes without any marketing and which kind will probably need some “encouragement”.
Of course it’s eventually up to you whether you decide to give soft opening a chance, but we can definitely recommend it!