Brad Menachemson, Managing Director of bdm groups global talks about soft openings and their drawbacks.
Venue/store openings are critical to the early success of any business but none more so than in Food/Hospitality retail.
Having launched and rolled out numerous brands as an owner/operator, franchisor and consultant both domestically and abroad the key principles to a successful launch are always the same.
1. Set an opening date and stick to it.
Opening a new venue is always stressful with a number of stakeholders involved in the process. It is imperative that all are committed and work towards your nominated opening date. Combining all opening schedules into one workable template is a great way of achieving this outcome. A set opening date is also an important step in holding all stakeholders accountable for delivering on their pre opening objectives.
2. Tell the world.
You only get one chance to open your venue, therefore the more people that experience and touch your brand on opening the greater chance your venue has of immediate success. It is important to understand that your opening should be more than just one day. Leverage off your primary promotion to target as many user groups as possible in your opening period.
3. Free product is a powerful tool.
As evidenced by the success of our QSR Mexican friends with ‘free burrito’ days, giving away your most popular menu item on opening is the best form of launch marketing you can do. Get your product into as many hands as possible and let that most powerful tool ‘word of mouth’ work its magic for your brand. There are also a number of strategies that can be employed to help with the ‘cost’ of free product.
4. The more people you serve the better your understanding will be of staff and systems.
Applied pressure on both your staff and operating systems will immediately identify your super stars (the ones you hold onto with both hands) as well as key elements of your operating system that need immediate refinement. All venues go through a period of settling in but the earlier you can identify both your strengths and weakness the better off your business will be.
5. Owners/Operators must be there.
It is imperative that the owner/operator is there and in the thick of things during the opening period. There is nothing more that a customer appreciates than the owner serving them, dealing with problems and saying thank you and goodbye. This is also an imperative time to gain immediate feedback from your new customer base and start to build relationships with your new brand advocates.
All the above is best achieved by NOT falling into the trap of believing a soft opening will be best.
Come out of the gates firing, learn and improve from your mistakes immediately and remember you only get to open your venue/store ONCE…
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by QSR Media. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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