We’ve had over 100 new restaurants open in the past year in the greater Austin area. And in keeping with what many restaurants see as an obligation most had some kind of grand opening. And most of those, in all likelihood, did not go well.
Opening a new restaurant and making sure all cylinders are clicking is a daunting task. Yet most restaurants will have a “soft” opening for a few nights (where family and friends come in and dine for free) and then amidst much hoopla, have a grand opening. What usually happens at this point is that the front of the house is not completely in sync with the back of the house. Servers are not completely familiar with the menus and the kitchen is still ironing out the kinks.
So instead of a triumphant debut, most Grand Openings come replete with frustrated patrons: (food prep, timing of dishes, even getting a check in an efficient manner). These frustrated patrons jump on some user generated review sites and bitch. Nobody wins here.
My suggestion? Forget the grand opening and just open quietly with minimal marketing. Let the staff get comfortable with the entire concept. Let things evolve organically. Then, when your restaurant is humming like a finely tuned engine, then you can have a grand opening and ramp up your marketing.
There’s a reason why I usually wait several months to try a new restaurant. It’s from experience. I don’t want to form an incorrect opinion by going before the place is honestly ready to be sampled. So I avoid Grand Openings like the plague. Unfortunately most diners do not.
There’s a simple solution to the problem of Grand Opening nights that don’t deliver. Stop having them until the restaurant is really ready. I sadly doubt this will happen anytime soon but at least I’ve gone on record. This is just another one of the many reasons why so many new restaurants don’t make it past the two-year mark.