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How to Win as a Restaurant Business.

The hospitality industry is perhaps one of the hardest industries out there... I would personally put this industry in the Top Three hardest industries, along with oil and technology information industries.

One of the reasons why the restaurant business is so hard is because of the upfront cost and investment. Even after that, you won't know how well your restaurant business will perform! Most are not capable of doing proper market research, business analysis and breakdown to carefully project how the business will perform. So I have made this list - if you are a restaurant owner or a senior staff involved in the industry, see how many of the below ticks the box for you.

But firstly for those who don't know what I do... I run a restaurant creative agency, Caramel, which has the biggest portfolio in New Zealand and since 2015, I have worked with well over 400 restaurant businesses, helping them develop, achieve ambitious goals and make more money. Not only do I help with everything digital (social media, design, website, etc.) but I also help with operations, menu and everything in the business - my main service is consulting, solving problems and helping businesses achieving goals in the most efficient way.

Anyways, let's get on with the list.

1. Find your vision.

Vision is not the same as goals. Your vision is foresight, a clear image of what you and your business will look like in an ideal world. Once you set your vision, that is your ultimate dream.

On the other hand, goals are specific targets that you need to achieve, helping you move towards your vision. Unlike your vision, goals should be measurable and should achieve it within the time you set. Your goals should always align with your vision.

Before setting your business goals, set your vision first. From experience, I literally had over a hundred cases when the business owners don't have a vision and just trying to set goals based upon the current situation. Without a vision, you will not get far.

Everything you do and think should reflect back to your overall vision.

2. Define your unique selling points.

Yes, I get that your local.

Yes, I get that you serve fresh food and coffee.

Oh wow, you serve beef burgers with handmade buns?

They are not unique selling points. I know many other who offers what you do.

If you truly want to take your business to another level, have unique selling points that really distinguish yourself from your competitors. Are you not sure how to get around this? It's because you don't have a clear vision.

3. Get on Instagram. This is an absolute requirement.

Instagram is a very powerful tool for restaurant businesses; through photography alone, you can attract many customers. However, don't expect your business to increase just by posting beautiful photos and writing amazing captions alone... Posting content consistently is the minimum requirement for you to implement other digital strategies.

Get in a habit of posting content consistently first before implementing other digital strategies. If you are not sure what to post/write or have no idea, get in touch with me via Caramel.

4. Invest good money on a website. Seriously, don't be cheap.

I get that you are short on cash and don't want to spend over $1,000 on a website. Well here is a thing. When it comes to the design and creative industry (and most other things), what you pay for is what you get. You cannot expect to get a modern, fast performing website that ranks highly on Google - that is impossible.

Website is literally the face of your business - treat it as an essential part of your business. You don't want it to look cheap, right? Honestly, find a good designer who can do the job and get an agency like mine to design, optimise and have it ranked on Google.

Yes, you can find website designers easily but optimisation is a whole another game. Meaning, having a website alone does not mean your website will be found on Google. Honestly, if you are wanting a website, invest good money in a good one. A sh*tty website will do more harm to your business than not having one.

Remember, almost 80% of diners check restaurant websites before they make decisions. Also, think as if you are the diner - you want to check out their menu on the website before you visit, right? What impression would you get if the website you are visiting is loading slowly, ugly, clunky and has a bad navigational system?

5. Automate as much as you can.

With technology evolving, there are so many applications, software and tools you can use to automate (or semi-automate) tasks. Using the right ones mean not only you can lower your labour costs but you can save a lot of time, implementing more strategies to grow your restaurant.

The best way to start this is grab a pen and paper - write down every operational task involved in your restaurant business. From processing reservations to even attracting new customers, write everything down and analyse which tasks can be automated. If you are unsure, there's always Google to help you out.

If you are really stuck or want some creative insights, I am here also.

6. Invest in your people.

Despite technology helps businesses to run more efficiently, without the people, you can never take your restaurant business to the next level.

Offering minimum wage? That is completely fine. However, offer more incentives, set up reward systems and staff benefits to not only have your current team members stay longer but attract more talent to your team.

Recently, I have been helping many of my clients with this because the hospitality industry in New Zealand is struggling a lot.. Trust me, it may cost you money now, it will save you more time and money in the long run.

7. Get a consultation. Work with Caramel.

As the Founder & Creative Director at Caramel, I am passionate about the hospitality industry. And that is why I am still working with restaurants all these years.

Sometimes, it is better to know what not to do than to know what to do. A strategic consultation with me can save you time and money long term because I can help you get on the right path efficiently. You have goals to achieve and problems to solve, right? I can provide the answers which will solve your problem that can cost you $100,000 next month.

My insights, capabilities, experience and network can help you gain unmatched advantages over your competitors.

Email me:


Founder & Editor | Say (Seowon) Song

Say S. from Fork & Truffle

I run Caramel, a restaurant creative agency with the biggest portfolio in New Zealand, helping restaurants grow by providing creative and technological solutions. In addition, I manage a few restaurants more hands-on.

Instagram: @forkandtruffle


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