Going for growth – Lessons from the restaurant industry

Graham Corfield, UK managing director of JUST EAT, shares his insights on what independent restaurant owners are doing to maximise sales and growth.

Running any small business is tough, but few sectors are as competitive as the takeaway restaurant scene in the UK. With over 47,000 takeaway restaurants and dozens of different cuisines on offer, consumers have a lot to choose from. They are also becoming increasingly discerning about the food they eat and, with the rise of peer-to-peer reviews, will always look to make an educated choice regarding where they order from.

Visiting restaurants around the country, and attending industry events like Takeaway Expo and the British Curry Awards, I can see how restaurant owners are constantly working to up their game. Finding new ways to stand out from the crowd and retain and grow their customers is their key focus.

So with the UK economy finally returning to growth, what are restaurant owners doing to capitalise on consumers’ improving confidence?

Firstly, they are recognising that consumers are increasingly online, and looking to follow them there. According to Ofcom, 80 per cent of the population are online, and two-thirds regularly use the internet to buy products and services. And with internet use becoming more common all the time, particularly on the move with 60 per cent of the population owning smartphones and 70 per cent using apps on a daily basis, this trend looks set to continue.

However, of the nearly five million small businesses in the UK, fewer than a third are selling through the internet, and 11 per cent have no online presence at all. Many restaurant owners are planning to capture a slice of the expanding online market by thinking about how they can provide a compelling experience and proposition online and on mobile.

The potential rewards in terms of increasing customers, orders, or marketing effectiveness, are huge. For example, online orders are typically 30 per cent higher in value than those placed on the phone, and are much faster to process, saving time for front-of-house teams and allowing them to focus on other things.

They also recognise that providing a quality product and good customer service is essential for success. In the context of a takeaway restaurant, this means delivering food that is tasty, good quality, and that arrives hot, on time, and well packaged. The takeaway restaurants on our site rated highest for customer service, quality and speed of delivery receive around three times more orders than average.

Restaurant owners I speak to know going the extra mile is a great way to differentiate from the competition, impress their customers, and encourage them to come back again and again.

Restaurant owners also invest significant sums in their kitchens, chefs, and food. They know how important it is to use all these resources as efficiently as possible, and find new ways to boost sales and profits.

One easy solution many are turning to is using an electronic point of sale (ePOS) system. These are becoming increasingly sophisticated and provide restaurant owners with a wealth of useful information to make their businesses more efficient and successful. They provide the ability to centrally manage orders, whether online, ‘walk-in’, or over the phone, as well as kitchen operations and staffing levels. They can also provide a better view of customers’ ordering habits – information which can be used to improve marketing and targeting of special offers to increase orders.

In conclusion, independent businesses like takeaway restaurants form the bedrock of many local economies. These great businesses are a vital source of jobs and growth, and ensure the character and diversity of our high streets. I’m proud that JUST EAT has helped generate more than £700 million in revenues for the 22,000+ restaurants we work with in the UK.

But while the takeaway business can be extremely competitive, with a few simple steps, restaurant owners will be well placed to profit from the current improving economic outlook.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.