The best restaurant openings are successful because of the buzz they generate. To help you open your restaurant, here are some tips for hosting a soft opening.
Tips for a Successful Soft Opening
One of the most recognizable names in the Philippine restaurant industry is Medonkoro Ramenba. Foodies and critics alike tout the restaurant’s quality, rivaling Japan’s best ramen bars. The restaurant is so renowned that it makes news whenever a new branch opens.
The secret behind Mendokoro’s success? Well, besides excellent food, it’s word of mouth. We can chalk up the restaurant’s success due to how much its regulars comment on its quality.
But how do you organically create buzz for your new restaurant?
The best way to get the word out on opening a new restaurant is a soft opening. In a soft opening, you can vet your initial guest list to include essential people like food critics, trusted friends or family, and of course, the local press to generate the most buzz.
To help you, we’ve gathered the best tips and tricks to help you plan your restaurant’s soft opening.
What Is A Soft Opening?
A soft opening or launch is an initial test period for a restaurant where it opens its doors to a particular set of guests. The restaurant invites a set of special guests to sample the menu and evaluate the restaurant’s ambiance before opening to the public.
A soft opening allows the restaurant to gather feedback to improve the menu and furnishings further. In addition, it enables the restaurant to fine-tune itself before its full launch.
And let’s be honest, a soft opening allows the restaurant to get the word out and test out everything before you open to the rest of the public. Plus, you’ll get to build early buzz if you host a successful soft opening. Who doesn’t wanna be a VIP?
4 Steps for Planing A Soft Opening
The secret to a successful soft opening is adequate planning. First, you have to build a game plan and execute it flawlessly. Otherwise, a soft opening can have the opposite effect. An improperly prepared soft opening can do more harm than good and could instead stir controversy for your burgeoning business.
To successfully plan a soft opening, here are the steps you have to take.
#1 – Plan Your Menu
The first step of an effective soft opening is crafting your menu. In addition, it’s essential that you highlight your best offerings to generate good word-of-mouth from your guests.
To ensure you get a positive response from your invitation list, you have to answer these questions for planning your soft launch menu.
- Will you offer a limited or full menu?
- What’s your signature dish?
- How will you portion your menu items?
- Will your menu stay the same throughout the week?
When deciding between a full menu or a limited menu, you have to consider factors like:
- Limited Menu – When you go this route, you want to select your top menu items and provide the best service possible. This helps impress any food critics or influencers.
- Full Menu – This works if you plan your soft launch a couple of days before you begin full operations. However, it comes with a couple of downsides. A full menu might provide guests with an average dining experience, making it harder to pinpoint which areas need improvement.
#2 – Select Your Time Frame
A soft opening can be held for a single day or across the duration of a week. The duration of a soft opening will depend on your goals and your budget. If you want that exclusive feel, then longer is better. Just use The Shed at Dulwich as an example, they saw how much hype they generated by being exclusive—and they weren’t even a real restaurant.
First, your budget will be a significant constraint for your restaurant’s soft opening. Secondly, you have to consider when you plan for full-time operations. For example, if you schedule your soft opening far before your full launch, you’ll get enough time to tinker with the menu to address guest feedback.
On the other hand, by scheduling it closer to the official opening, you’ll benefit from building hype for the full launch. The time frame for your soft launch is an important factor to consider and you’ll have to choose what works for you at the end of the day.
#3 – Pricing Your Menu
When pricing your soft opening menu, you have 3 options available for you:
- Free – By offering a free sample for your menu, you’ll impress your guests. As such, you’ll get to make more buzz for your grand opening. On the other hand, it’s the most costly option. Besides the obvious reason, you’ll also have to pay your staff more due to not getting tips.
- Full Price – This saves you money; however, you won’t gain any favors from your guests. But, offering full price allows them to get an idea of the value proposition of your entire menu. Instead, you can earn favor from your invitation list by providing freebies to your soft opening guests.
- Discounted – Providing a discount is a good middle ground between a free menu and a full-priced menu. You can show your guests you value them, and you won’t have to spend as much compared to the free menu.
But, pricing your menu isn’t the only consideration for a soft opening. You also have to decide who’s allowed to attend before anyone else, which is more strategic than you might think.
#4 – Craft a Guest List
Selecting an appropriate guest list is vital for your soft opening. After all, if you just invite your friends and family, you might not receive adequate feedback to address improvements. But, on the other hand, just inviting critics might discourage you.
Instead, you need to build a balanced guest list.
- Family and friends – They can be good brand ambassadors. Furthermore, it can be easy to follow up with them to provide feedback.
- Local businesses – Inviting your neighbors can build camaraderie with them. Additionally, it brings the opportunity of building partnerships with fellow restaurant owners.
- Influencers – They are the perfect way to build hype for your grand opening. It also allows you to further your restaurant’s social media presence.
- Local Press – Inviting your local journalists can potentially land you on the local news if it’s a slow news day.
When you send out invitations, you need to include details such as:
- Date, time, and place
- Dress code
- Menu price
With a good guest list, you can have a successful soft opening.
Advertise Your Restaurant Opening With A Well Planned Soft Opening
Soft openings can be the perfect opportunity to generate hype for your restaurant. You can host an excellent soft opening by inviting the right people and building the right menu. Through this, you can create enough hype to ensure your official launch is a hit.
And of course, you need the right tools to help ensure your opening goes well. Looking for the right POS system for your new restaurant? Mosaic has a cloud-based POS and all the data analytics you need to help you get started.
Contact Mosaic Solutions today to see how you can use the latest technology to ensure your restaurant operations are running smoothly.
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