Resurrecting A Dying Restaurant

Much like our aging process, restaurants have life cycles. The Restaurant Life Cycle comes in phases:

  1. Birth and Infancy – Preopening and year one.
  2. The Toddler Stage – Years two and three.
  3. Adolescence – Years four through six.
  4. Maturity – Years seven and beyond.

When the average person reaches retirement, they look back and if they planned efficiently they have a retirement fund that will carry them on through later years.

But for the person that has not planned, there are rough roads are ahead. The same can be said about a restaurant.  If they plan for the maturity of the restaurant then they are more likely to mature in good shape.



The people that have not planned for retirement can keep working; rely on social security; reduce the cost of living and other options.

Maturity does not necessarily mean that the restaurant is dying, some restaurants—and there are exceptions—live many years past maturity. The parents turn the business over to the children, new owners come in create fresh energy and based on their location, have a long standing popular restaurant. Some of these restaurants are very well known: Brennan’s Restaurant, New Orleans, est. 1946…Harbor House Café, Sunset Beach, (est. 1939) …The Gallery, Santa Monica Ca. est. 1934.Tam O’Shanter, Los Angeles (est.1922). Every state has their share of these types of restaurants.

The average independent restaurant does not have many choices when they reach maturity. What they have to do is to reinvent themselves.

10 to 12 years pass by and you haven’t paid attention to changing demographics, changing landscapes and changing cultural patterns this can impact the maturity phase badly.

Restaurants that have been around for many years have paid attention to dealing with different generations like the restaurants above.

The way you marketed your restaurant has changed since the time you opened. The eating habits have changed and if you catch yourself asking, “When did all of this change?” I got one answer: it changed every day in front of you.

You have a successful and profitable restaurant and you are in your maturity.  It is time to take stock.  Where will your restaurant be in five years? Will your concept be able to keep up with the new generations, food trends and technology? Especially in the areas of food delivery, new marketing techniques, and new competition.

There is no guarantee reinventing your restaurant will work, to survive changes you have to try. Take a strong look at your current concept and re-define it by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Has my target market changed?
  2. What are the successful restaurants doing?
  3. When is the last time you changed the décor in your restaurant?

When we first open we hope for the best. All of our concentration was on getting the restaurant running. The focus changes to meet the demands of a growing business and with time we lose the energy, vision and excitement.

I advise my clients to go back to stage one: birth and infancy. Harness the energy you had during the preopening phase that first year. This was the time that you transformed your idea into a concept that you felt you would be successful based on your research, knowledge and experience. This is the starting point, do new research to find out what is selling now.

So, it’s time to start all over again, however this time you have the dream, more knowledge and more experience.

Kenny Arone is a restaurant consultant and partner in Cost Genie Menu Costing Software.


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