The Importance of a Soft Opening
A soft opening is of the utmost importance for a new restaurant because you want to make sure that everything runs smoothly before you open the doors to the public. A soft opening can take place a week or two prior to the grand opening and can help to catch any glaring problems to avoid bad reviews from the public.
One of the first things to understand with a soft opening is that all employees have already been hired and trained. The restaurant is about to open, and this is an invitation only event that can take place for one day or for several days. It is generally done as a way of checking to ensure that everyone and everything is ready to go.
Everyone who attends the soft opening should be observant and ready to provide quality feedback about what they experienced. They should be ready to discuss atmosphere, quality of menu, quality food, speed of service, and even friendliness of staff.
Everything during the soft opening should be as it will be when the doors open to the general public. This means that all the tables and chairs should be in place, menus should have already been printed, and employees should know how to make recommendations on the menu and explain various products. As such, the people who come in for the soft opening should be prepared to ask questions and act as typical diners.
When something goes wrong during this mock opening, it allows you as a restaurant to make changes. It could involve some re-training in the kitchen to reduce food delivery times. It could involve moving some of the tables around in the dining room for a better flow. It could also involve spending more time with the front of house staff – and potentially hiring some more individuals to help, even if it is temporary.
You only have one chance to make an impression once you open your doors to the public. You don’t want to be one of those restaurants that fail immediately because of two hour waits, food being sent back, and more. While some people may understand that your restaurant has just opened, that should not be used as an excuse when many of the opening problems can be solved beforehand.
The soft opening is not just to make sure the restaurant is able to run smoothly. It is also designed to get a lot of feedback from the people who are part of the mock run. Have them fill out a questionnaire that you put together. You may not make all of the changes before you open the doors for real, but it can give you an idea as to what you want to do once you begin turning a profit – or when you are ready to launch a new menu.
Restaurants can be well-oiled machines, but it takes practice. Employees are exposed to a new menu and a new environment. Every time they go to a new restaurant, they need a period of adjustment. With a new restaurant, all of your employees need this period of adjustment, so be sure to give it to them.