Restaurant Growth

This handbook explains how to grow a restaurant, based on the first-hand experience of thousands of restaurants over the last 3 years.

14 min read
October 18, 2023

Key takeaways

  • To grow a restaurant effectively, it's important to focus on direct customer relationships and online presence, reducing reliance on third-party delivery apps.
  • Realistic growth expectations for well-managed restaurants with direct ordering are about 3-4% monthly, translating to 36-48% annually.
  • Improving marketing, growing a base of regular customers, and encouraging direct orders are key strategies for surpassing baseline growth expectations.

Intro

This handbook explains how to grow a restaurant.

I’ve built this guide using firsthand data from two incredible sources: the Owner.com team’s 27 years of direct restaurant experience, and the real performance of thousands of our restaurant partners over the last 12 months.

This guide isn’t a compilation of random strategies or marketing theories.

What I’m going to cover in this guide is what’s actually working RIGHT NOW for restaurants all over the country — from mom and pop diners to local chains to nationally renowned establishments.

This is a 4-part guide, where we’ll cover the following:

  1. Restaurant Growth
  2. Direct Online Ordering
  3. Restaurant Marketing
  4. Restaurant Promotion

Let's get started.

Who Should Read This?

This guide is written specifically for restaurant owners and managers who are looking for a tangible, proven process to grow revenue and increase net profit at an existing restaurant.

The steps and strategies in this handbook have been created and improved through active participation with thousands of our restaurant partners. Their hard work, persistence, and willingness to experiment through a very tumultuous period in this industry is the only reason we’ve been able to put together such an effective restaurant growth process at Owner.com.

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Methodology: Restore Your Direct-to-Customer Relationships

The last decade has seen a ton of huge changes for restaurants.

To begin with, restaurants have found themselves increasingly dependent on the internet to get in front of new customers, and many restaurants still struggle to create an online presence that can achieve this effectively.

Tech platforms like GrubHub, DoorDash, and UberEats came into the picture claiming to solve this problem by putting restaurants in front of customers on their popular apps. The cost? 30% commissions and the loss of customer data.

To make matters worse, a global pandemic closed down in-person dining for nearly a year, making delivery a much larger percentage of restaurant business and forcing more dependence on the tech platforms that were eating their margins and removing their direct customer relationships.

That’s where we are today.

And that’s why our methodology is very simple: restore your restaurant’s direct relationships with its customers.

The process I’ll walk you through in this handbook will help you take back full control of your customer relationships and online presence, turning 3rd party delivery apps into optional marketing tools, channeling every new customer into your loyalty program, and allowing you to keep your full profits on every order.

How Much Can Your Restaurant Grow?

Let’s start by setting a realistic expectation for growth.

How much can your restaurant grow?

A well managed restaurant business with excellent food and service, regular marketing, and a loyal base of regulars ordering directly from the restaurant can expect to grow around 3-4% month over month, which is 36-48% per year.

Every restaurant, location, cuisine, concept, etc. varies wildly, so there’s really only so much we can take away from this average, but it provides a good baseline in evaluating your restaurant’s past, current, and future growth.

Here’s what the last year of growth has looked like for SaMo’s Oaxaca, one of our restaurant partners in Santa Monica, California.

The restaurant grew 47% over the course of the year, going from $6,393 in direct online ordering sales in April 2021 to $9,425 in April 2022.

While this is, of course, a very successful year of growth for any restaurant, it falls within the standard range of what we expect to see when a restaurant is taking intentional measures to improve their marketing, drive direct orders, and build a stable base of regulars.

This next example from our partner Talkin’ Tacos is well outside the usual range of growth and shows what’s possible when things go well and the owners leverage growth into opening new locations.

This restaurant business has grown 88% in just 10 months, going from $14,565 in sales in July 2021 to $27,381 in April 2022.

In both of these examples, the restaurants highlighted are hitting all the criteria I mentioned at the beginning of this section. These are well managed restaurant businesses with excellent food and service, regular marketing, and a loyal base of regulars ordering directly from the restaurants.

Most restaurants do not meet that criteria. Even restaurants with an amazing reputation often struggle in one of the following areas:

  • Being consistent with marketing
  • Growing their base of loyal regulars
  • Getting regulars to order directly versus through 3rd party apps

If you are struggling in any of these areas, making a change can result in month-over-month growth well over the 3-4% baseline.

This is why improving in each of these areas is a standard part of the onboarding process we take new restaurant partners through here at Owner.com.

Here’s that same restaurant, SaMo’s Oaxaca, but now we’re looking at the 6 months after the restaurant began using Owner.com to take direct, commission-free orders (pickup and delivery) and run automated marketing campaigns.

In just 6 months, the restaurant grew 173%, going from $2,109 in sales in Sep 2020 to $5,760 in Feb 2021.

Here’s the same timeline for Talkin’ Tacos.

Most of their growth came during that first six month period marketing into our direct-order system. The business grew 74% through that window, going from $14,565 in sales in July 2021 to $25,300 in Dec 2021.

While both of these examples show exceptional early growth, we actually see an average growth of more than 50% during the 3-6 month period after restaurants begin using Owner.com to:

  • Consistently run marketing to get in front of new customers
  • Consistently run marketing to re-engage previous customers
  • Get regulars ordering commission-free through the website

But outside of commission-free delivery, you don’t need our platform to do these things. In this restaurant growth handbook, I’m going to teach you our entire bag of tricks and show you exactly what we do to help restaurants grow their online sales so significantly and so quickly.

You can implement nearly everything that I’m going to teach you on your own, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll prefer to have our platform do it for you automatically. Over 98% of restaurants that have tried us out for 90 days are still with us to this day.

Regardless, having an effective online ordering system in place is non-negotiable.

Who is Adam Guild?

My name is Adam Guild (that’s me on the left with my co-founder Dean Bloembergen), and if you look me up in Google, you’ll find that I’ve helped thousands of restaurant owners grow their businesses, that I was named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and that I was inspired to launch Owner.com after helping my mom save her own small business.

Over the last two years, our vision to help restaurant owners take back control from big tech has attracted over $25,000,000 in investment from Marcus Lemonis, Kimbal Musk, and other leading investors in the restaurant industry.

But most importantly, if you ask the restaurant owners I’ve worked with over the last two years, they’ll tell you I’m the guy who got on the phone with them in March 2020 and asked what I could do to help them save their businesses as dining rooms were shut down and their livelihoods were put at risk. Many of them will also tell you that I’m the guy who has helped them double their revenue over the last year and save hundreds of thousands in fees.

Click here if you want to hear some of their stories.

This handbook is the result of their hard work, and I’m excited to share it with you and help you reach your goals as a restaurant owner.

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Next Page: Direct Online Ordering

Having an effective ordering system is priority #1 if you are serious about growing your restaurant business in the post pandemic era.

On the next page of this restaurant growth handbook, we detail the 10 most critical components of a restaurant's online ordering system and why these components are so vital to driving restaurant growth today.

Click here to go to page #2: Direct Online Ordering.


Frequently asked questions

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Their customer service is, bar none, the best and they’ve really helped with our success. In less than 5 weeks we have over $25,000 in sales and it’s the middle of winter not our busy season. I’m excited for the future and recommend it!

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Adam Guild is the CEO of Owner, a restaurant marketing platform that makes online growth easy for restaurants.

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