How to Outrun the Competition


You’ve heard the story: Two hikers encounter an angry bear in the forest. One of them opens their backpack, pulls out their running shoes, and begins putting them on as fast as they can. The other watches and says incredulously, “You don’t think you’re going to outrun that bear, do you?”

“I don’t have to outrun the bear,” the first hiker replies. “I only have to outrun you.”

Guess what? You’re one of the hikers, the bear is right behind you, and your competition just put on its running shoes. While competition in the restaurant business is nothing new, it is changing in ways we’ve never seen before.

Competition in the Restaurant Industry

There’s no question that the challenges faced by the restaurant industry lately will have repercussions that will last for years. Some found ways to thrive, some barely hung on, and some just couldn’t pull through. As new places cautiously open to replace those that closed, guests have new and different options to consider. Combine those trends with staffing shortages and increased demand for value from customers, and restaurant owners are finding it harder and harder to differentiate themselves from the competition. As the economy recovers, your customers will have more money to spend, but they’ll also have more choices as to where to spend it.

Competition from Outside the Industry

The popularity of take out and delivery food service options have brought more businesses from outside the traditional restaurant industry into its circle of competition. Enter your latest competitor: convenience stores. More and more convenience stores are adding robust food service options to their product line. We’re not just talking about hot dogs and donuts here. Many stores are grabbing customers’ attention (and dollars) with high-quality deli items, healthy salads and wraps, and even gourmet meal replacement options that customers can grab quickly and heat up when they get home.

How to Outrun Your Competition (And the Bear)

Maybe the trick isn’t to run faster, but to run smarter. You can stay ahead of your competition by following these strategies:

  • Train every day. Before you invest your marketing dollars on the next big promotion, train your restaurant staff to deliver service based on excellent product knowledge, caring behavior, and personalized attention.
  • Training is the handle, sales is the pump. Train servers to not just take orders and deliver food, but to make sales. Through active listening and suggestive selling, servers can increase their per person check average by over a dollar on every shift.
  • Build repeat visits. It’s okay — and maybe even imperative — to offer a sweet deal to customers to get them in the door. The key is to capitalize on those visits and wow guests with service and food that they can’t wait to experience again.
  • Go where your customers are. You know customers are looking for convenience, so offer it. You don’t have to be a quick-serve, fast-casual, or convenience store concept to offer meals on the go. Take another look at your take-out offering and step up your game.

Out-train Your Competition

Our online restaurant training improves service, increases sales, and strengthens teamwork. Some available series include Service & Sales Excellence, Cycle of Service, Operations, Back-of-House, and Human Resources. Click here to learn more.

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