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3 Common Problems Restaurants Face (and how to solve them!)

By: Kim Lorang


Running a profitable restaurant is no easy task. Operators face so many challenges each day, and with the overwhelming number of dining options customers have, it is important that restaurants are consistently putting their best foot forward.


While each restaurant has its own specific challenges, there are some general areas that many restaurants struggle with. Hiring and training new talent, poor inventory/staff management, and failure to establish a consistent brand identity are all issues operators face every single day.


Learn how to overcome these three common problems restaurants face, and how to fix them, here!

Learn about the 4 common problems restaurants face, and how to fix them, in the latest edition of KitchenBiz!

Failure to Establish a Consistent Brand Identity

A confusing brand identity can be a crushing blow to a restaurant, making it one of the top problems restaurants face.


Things like the restaurant’s ability to understand their target customer, unique selling proposition, menu, and decor choices can come together seamlessly, or leave visitors feeling underwhelmed.


Let’s dive into how each of these things plays a role in a restaurant’s success:


Target Customer

Knowing who you want to fill your restaurant, how to get them there, and how to keep them coming back is key if you want to run a business that is filled with loyal customers day after day.


The better you understand the customers you hope to attract, the better you will be able to position yourself to be the restaurant they think of when it’s time to head out for a bite to eat.


Pretend you want to attract families. What will your kids menu look like? How will your servers dazzle even the youngest (and sometimes the hardest to please!) customers? How will you design your dining room layout to ensure strollers and high-chairs fit in easily? Will you have step stools in the bathroom to help little ones reach the sink? What can you do to ensure parents enjoy their time, too (making it TOO kid-centric can really change the vibe of the restaurant!). Will kids eat free on certain days/times? Will you give the kids something to do while waiting for their food (and if so, what will it be?)? How will your decor appeal to parents and make them feel comfortable without worrying that their kids will break something or mess something up?


See how many things there are to think about? And this is nowhere near a complete list.


In addition to knowing how to best design your restaurant, knowing who your target customer is will help you understand them, allowing you to better communicate your value proposition to them in a way that will really captivate them.


Sometimes, the task of properly identifying a target customer is one of the common problems restaurants face! By setting aside time to create some detailed sample customer profiles, and sharing those with your whole team, you can open up some great conversations about how to best reach those people, and how to impress them!


Unique Selling Proposition

The unique selling proposition, or USP, refers to the factors that make a restaurant stand out from its competitors. It is the answer to the question “what makes your restaurant special?”.


When you know what your niche will be, and how it will set you apart from your competition, think about why those things matter to your customers. Once you’ve figured that out, you can create your value proposition, and infuse that into every single aspect of your business.




Not only does what’s on your menu matter, but how it’s described, the material it is made out of, where you position items to best take advantage of a customer’s reading patterns, and how well your employees can explain the items on the menu all play into how cohesive your brand identity feels.


In addition to the menu being consistent with your brand’s identity, a big struggle restaurant owners face is ensuring their menu is profitable. Restaurants often are operating with extremely slim margins (sometimes as low as .05 on the $1!) so creating a menu that is positioned for profit is imperative.


Ensure every single staff member is properly trained when it comes to your menu. Encourage them to try every single dish, talk with them about how to best explain dishes to diners, and make sure everyone involved in creating and serving the dish understands how it should be plated and presented.


Check out these resources for designing a profitable menu:


Expert Tips on How to Make a Profitable Restaurant Menu


4 Strategies for Creating a Profitable Restaurant Menu


Menu Engineering:How to Make a Profitable Restaurant Menu


While some restaurants thrive on being mismatched and all over the place, that quirkiness is often only successful when it is done so intentionally as part of their branding.


In most circumstances, a confusing brand identity will leave customers feeling disconnected and unlikely to describe their experience favorably.


When you confuse people, you lose them. Ensuring every aspect of your operation is intentional, and on brand, is key.

Learn about the 3 common problems restaurants face, and how to fix them, in the latest edition of KitchenBiz!

Hiring and Training

Have you ever had such fantastic service at a restaurant that you couldn’t wait to rave about your experience to anyone that would listen?


A fantastic server can turn an average meal into an unforgettable experience, while unsatisfactory service can cause even the best meal to feel lackluster, even unpleasant.


Finding and retaining quality talent can be a struggle for restaurant owners, but taking the time to really vet who is being hired, and putting a quality training program into place, can make a huge difference when it comes to the success of an operation.


Because the quality of service is so important, finding and properly training new talent is one of the top problems restaurants face. One bad service experience can result in a lost customer, which can sometimes lead to a great loss in revenue depending on how vocal that customer is about their dissatisfaction.


If you struggle to get quality talent in the door, here are some great tips to consider when putting the word out that you’re hiring.


When it comes time to review resumes and conduct interviews, be sure you’re vetting them well. Call their references, check into their job history, and really ask yourself if they seem like they would be a good fit for your restaurant! Draft interview questions that allow you to get insight into how they would perform in different circumstances, and be selective in who you choose! Can you see the person in front of you improving the culture you’re trying to build? Does this seem like someone who is interested in being a long time team-member?


Once you make the decision to hire someone, the amount of time and resources you invest in that person can dictate how successful they will become, and if they will stick around or not. It is so important to put them through a detailed training program that is created specifically for your operation based on the restaurant’s goals and your target customers.


While developing a comprehensive training program can feel overwhelming for already busy restaurant managers, it is an investment that over time will pay off in spades.


There is so much more to working in a restaurant than showing up for shifts, taking orders, completing side work, and checking in on tables once in a while.


Here are some great resources that will help you create a training program for new employees that will turn them into service rockstars, which in turn can turn your customers into raving fans:


The Fundamentals of an Effective Server Training Program 


Top 10 Helpful Restaurant Server Training Tips from HR Experts


20 Most Common Restaurant Service Mistakes


While on-boarding plays a key role in your employee’s success, making continuing education a priority is equally important! Be sure to think about classes, team building events, and conferences you can encourage your team-members to engage in to ensure they’re always learning new ways to excel.


Considering attending some conferences? Check out these tips for making the most out of your time there:


Foodservice Conference Attendance Tips: Preparing for Success 


Foodservice Conference Attendance Tips: Attend a Conference Like a Pro

Poor Inventory and Staff Management

For restaurant operators, the data they need to track and numbers they crunch on a daily basis are staggering.


While this can be one of the more tedious aspects of running a restaurant, it is also one of the most important as it directly impacts the bottom line, which can make or break a restaurant!


Ensuring everyone in the company is properly trained on how to best keep costs down is a key part of running a restaurant, and it’s an area everyone should be involved in.


From managers knowing when to cut servers during slow periods, to chefs consciously minimizing food waste, understanding how to manage a restaurant’s inventory and staff to best reach your sales goals is one way to ensure success.


Here are some ways you can ensure your staff is properly managing inventory:


  • Weekly P&L tracking
  • Ensuring all staff members have a clear understanding of sales goals
  • Training all staff members on the importance of accurate inventory tracking
  • Closely tracking food waste either in your POS system or by hand
    • Include things like time and date, amount or weight, reason for the waste, and the employee’s name
  • Educate your kitchen staff on the “FIFO” rule- “First In, First Out” to ensure products that will expire first are placed in front of new items.


The more you can get everyone involved in understanding how important inventory and staff management are to the profitability of the restaurant, the more likely you are to see increased profits.


Everyone knows “time is money”, but products are too. Those bags of sugar and boxes of steak are really just piles of money sitting on a shelf, and sometimes going into the garbage! Manage those assets effectively, and train your staff to do the same, and you will avoid one of the top problems restaurants face.

Learn about the 4 common problems restaurants face, and how to fix them, in the latest edition of KitchenBiz!

As you can see, each of the three common problems restaurants face tie directly back to understanding your target customer and training. Focus on these things, and you’ll be on your way to running a profitable operation!