Thinking like a Start Up


11 mins read

Three key principles to get you through a flat market. 

The market will come back, but until then, your business’s survival requires you to change gear and start thinking like a start-up.

Adopting some of those disciplines and mindsets you used when you first started your business. In reality, though, what does a start-up mindset look like? Let’s take a look at the three key principles that will help get you through a soft market.

Every customer is precious

Every person who walks through your door has made a decision to be there, and you want to do everything you can to make sure they keep on coming back.

Whether they’re a new customer or an existing customer, make sure you reward their decision to visit your eatery by delivering outstanding service and make sure your staff are trained up to do the same. 

Greet everyone warmly as soon as you can; even if you’re busy with a customer, a smile can be enough to reassure them that you’ve seen them and will be with them as soon as you can.

Take the time to stand back and look at your café or restaurant through your customers’ eyes. What do they see when they first come through the door? 

Is what they see consistent with what your brand experience should be? It’s important to get the basics right, so make sure everything is clean and tidy, cabinet food is well merchandised, menus and signage are professionally presented and staff are well turned out. 

Think about how you can go the extra mile with your customers by surprising them with a bit of value-add, giving them a taste of something before they buy, or even customising their meal a little to better suit what they need. 

Watch Your Numbers Like a Hawk

During the good times, you need to watch your numbers like a hawk, in a flat market you need to watch them even harder!

Now is a great time to know your food costs down to the last cent, and to consider simplifying your menu to your most profitable items only. Not only will this ensure that everything being sold 

is being sold for the greatest possible margin, but simplifying your menu will have the added advantage of potentially reducing your prep costs, reducing the value of your stock holding and keeping your labour costs lean, as there will be less prep to be done. 

Labour costs should also be closely monitored. 

Where possible, keep your roster as lean as possible, as the owner pitch in if you can, hunt out efficiencies and where possible make sure you’re highest paid staff aren’t doing work that could easily be carried out by a more cost-effective member of your team. 

When times are good we tend to take our eye off our fixed expenses. It’s well worth going through these costs and challenging yourself to make savings. Perhaps there are subscriptions you don’t really need; or you might be able to find a better deal on things like your utilities, service providers, or some of your big-ticket items like cooking oil. 

Play the Long Game with Profit

While you should be watching your numbers like a hawk, now is a great time to focus first and foremost on cashflow and breakeven, rather than profit. 

The reality is until the market comes back to full strength, we’re in survival mode, and this means the focus needs to be one ensuring that there’s enough money coming in to pay off the outgoings. 

This will be painful at first, but by shoring up your cashflow profitability will soon follow. And what’s more, the disciplines you put in place now will pay back handsomely in the future. 


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