7.10.2020

Benefits of a Soft Opening

Written by Kadence Edmonds

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Opening a restaurant, bar, cafe or store is both an exciting and stressful experience. After navigating the painstaking process of developing business concepts, researching the market, scouting the location, venue fit out, sourcing equipment, and hiring the staff, it's time to open. 

But when this time comes, and your grand opening nears, finer details and processes might go unchecked. This is why hosting a soft opening or launch may just be the best way to get better prepared.  

 

What is a Soft opening 

Unlike your grand opening, which is the day you open your doors to the excited public, a soft opening happens prior in a smaller, more controlled way. Think of it as a trial run for your restaurant. 

Why you should begin with a soft opening

Soft openings are a way to smooth over any hiccups. They also give you the chance as the business owner/manager to review the runnings of the business and manage them in time for the grand opening.   

 

Prepare your Staff

Making sure your front of house and back of house staff are prepared and trained is key.  Even the most experienced staff members are going to make mistakes while they get used to new working environments, so it’s best to get them familiar with workflows and familiarised with your venue in a low-stress way. 

 

Review running operations 

A soft opening is like a trial run, and will allow you time to change operations if they don’t run smoothly in a live environment. Things like kitchen workflows, menu knowledge, table layout etc. can be reviewed and fixed prior to the grand opening.  

 

Get constructive feedback

During a soft opening, you can gather valuable feedback from those in attendance. Have your staff spend time interacting with your guests during this time and ask for their honest feedback. The comments made by each guest can help you improve the customer experience for the future. 

 

Build Hype around your venue

Opening your doors to an instant full house isn’t always achievable so building up hype prior to the grand opening is beneficial. Successfully hosting smaller soft launches/openings can help build a solid word of mouth reputation that can help the grand opening become a sell-out.  

 

What to do differently in a soft opening?

Open to Friendly Faces

A great way to review your running processes is opening your venue to “friends and family” first. This kind of event allows your staff to become comfortable with the workplace, and workflows without the pressure of a grand opening. It drastically reduces the risk of potential mistakes spoiling a customers' first opinion of your venue because your friends will be more forgiving.  

Additionally, a family and friends night is also a great way to help build your client base quickly. If they have a great experience with your service and food, they are more likely to recommend you to others. 

 

Schedule extra Staff

Keeping guest wait times down to a minimum during the opening period is crucial to ensuring a solid first impression. Even if you have an amazing venue and an incredible menu, customers will be turned away if the wait time is too long.  Allow extra cooks, servers, bar staff, so that things run quickly and smoothly.  

TIP: As time goes on you can get a better understanding of your busy times through reporting in your POS and you can ensure you have the perfect amount of staff scheduled on accordingly. Epos Now has many valuable reports to help with this, see more here. 

 

Limit the number of tables

During the soft opening period for your venue, another beneficial practice is to limit the number of tables available. This will help your staff familiarise with the menu, the location and the demographic drawn to your venue. 

Yes, initially labour costs will be higher, because you will be operating on limited availability but it will help to have well prepared and relaxed staff, making for a better experience for your customers. 

 

Take note of any mistakes

Although it is only a soft opening period, mistakes are still unwanted and can still damage your businesses sparkling new reputation.  But if mistakes are made, or issues arise make sure your staff take detailed notes on what happened so these issues can be rectified before your grand opening.

Another area to note any issues, is the running of your Point of Sale system.  Maybe an item prints to the bar printer instead of the kitchen printer, or some prices are wrong in the system compared to the menu. These issues need to be rectified so make sure your staff note any discrepancies.  

Although it is recommended to complete a full system run through before your doors even slightly open, sometimes these things can slip under the radar.  So finding these issues during this soft opening period allows you time to have them rectified before the all-important grand opening. 

These are just a few of the benefits of soft opening. Taking all these factors into consideration will ensure that your venue, your staff and your technology is all ready for your highly anticipated grand opening.  

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