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Is Your Restaurant Growing Too Fast? How to Take Control

Coral Drake | March 17, 2023 |

Featured restaurant management
Is Your Restaurant Growing Too Fast? How to Take Control

Growth is good in any business. After all, more business means more money and more success. However, growing too fast in the restaurant industry can have significant costs. In fact, if you can't successfully rein in growth, your business could fail. Is your restaurant growing too fast? Here's how to know and what to do.

Is Your Restaurant Growing Too Fast? How to Spot the Signs.

1. Impacted Quality

Keeping a close eye on the quality of your food and your service is a great way to monitor whether you are growing faster than you can sustain. If you are consistently too busy to provide the level of service and product you’ve staked your reputation on, expect to shrink quickly. 


There are a number of reasons that careful restaurant growth management is a necessity: 

  • The kitchen may rush through food preparation—negatively impacting the quality of the delivered product—in order to meet demand.
  • Overtired kitchen staff are more likely to make mistakes, even dangerous mistakes, like unsafe kitchen practices. 
  • Waiters who have too many tables will struggle to provide good service to their customers, leading to long waits, forgotten requests, and order errors. 
  • Managers having difficulty keeping up with inventory may have to make last-minute trips to buy lower quality ingredients. 

You'll know more sustainable restaurant growth is needed if you notice increased complaints from customers about the quality of the food or service.

2. Reigning Chaos

All restaurants get a little chaotic, especially during rush hours. However, if your restaurant feels like it's being held together with string and duct tape even during slower operational hours, it may be time to re-examine your growth rate and review techniques for managing restaurant growth.

A restaurant growing too fast can experience chaos in many ways. Here are a few warning signs: 

  • Difficulty finding and keeping staff
  • Trouble managing inventory
  • A growing backlog of paperwork and finances in need of action

Listen to your gut and monitor these factors. If you have a general feeling that you're barely getting by and you notice significantly more mistakes and mishaps, consider a new approach for restaurant growth management.

3. Miserable Employees

It's hard enough to keep employees in the restaurant industry under normal working conditions. Avoiding restaurant burnout is even harder if you're growing too quickly and employees are overworked. If employees seem to be disengaged, disgruntled or they're making lots of mistakes, pay attention. 

In these situations, look for ways to reduce the workload on your existing team, especially if you are poised for further growth. Can you make small adjustments to the schedule that increase shift predictability and decrease the potential for long hours?

As you onboard new employees, how can you ensure that they are learning when service demand is slow so that they’re ready to jump in as business picks up for a rush? Other considerations, like having varied tenure and experience represented for your scheduled teammates, can help newbies learn quickly without unduly burdening your veterans, and can ensure that the proverbial wheels don’t come off entirely during a major rush. 

A thoughtful approach to scheduling can help with sustainable restaurant growth. Additionally, uncovering digital and automated solutions for certain service tasks can help streamline your overall operations and lessen the strain on your people. 

4. No Plan

If you are shocked by your growth rate, you may need to slow it down. Fast-growing restaurants need plans in place to hire more people, buy more equipment, or support franchise opportunities. Not only do these tasks require time and money, but they should really leverage a clear, detailed plan with guardrails in place for process and what to do when the unexpected arises. 

Restaurant growth planning can be time-consuming, and without a plan you’re likely to make poor choices. If you're not sure whether your current growth rate is here to stay or just a momentary flux, you may not be willing to make a big investment into expanding yet. In this case, it's better to slow things down than try to throw together a plan as you're growing.

How to Manage Rapid Restaurant Growth

So, is your restaurant growing too fast? Perhaps you're struggling to keep up with the influx, but you're not ready to hit the brakes just yet. These tips can help ease your restaurant growing pains.

Automate Restaurant Tasks

The more you can automate in your restaurant, the less your employees will need to do. We touched on this briefly earlier in the blog post, but automation can go a long way in limiting mistakes and helping you navigate customer influxes. 

We are a bit biased here, but a quality point of sale system is a key connection point for all of the technology underpinning your restaurant operations. Putting the right one in place can dramatically improve your order management and operational flow. 

Sustainable restaurant growth is much more possible when there are fewer small factors your team has to manage. Help alleviate unnecessary stressors for your team by incorporating tech solutions where possible. 

Let Customers Order for Themselves

One safe bet for order accuracy is allowing your guests to place their orders themselves. And in a way, each diner enters your establishment pre-equipped with a pocket kiosk of sorts—their smartphone. 

App ordering from the table means that customers can place requests directly to the kitchen or bar without having to rely on busy waitstaff. 

An intuitive design makes ordering easy. Many customers actually prefer the freedom of ordering themselves whatever they want, rather than having to try to decide before the waitstaff comes. Avoiding restaurant burnout is easier for waitstaff when customers are more empowered in this way. 

Set Quality Standards

If you want to make sure that the quality of the food your restaurant offers doesn't suffer as you grow, clear standards are essential. Set very specific parameters for exactly how dishes should look and taste and how quickly they should get to the customer. 

Successful restaurant growth planning depends on stringent quality control, so consistently check that all of these quality standards are being followed. 

When the restaurant is busiest and you have the least time to check quality standards is the most important time to check. If your restaurant is consistently busy enough that you can't keep up with the quality standards, you'll know it's time to slow down or look into restaurant scaling strategies.

Make Sure Your Employees Are On Board

If your employees are helping you keep up with growth at the expense of their personal life and sleep, you're growing too fast. Avoiding restaurant burnout is key to sustainable restaurant growth

Talk to your employees about how they feel about how your restaurant is growing. Make sure that they feel valued. If employees express frustration or exhaustion, look for new solutions that make their lives better. 

Hiring staff is difficult, and retaining staff is much easier when operators actively demonstrate that they care about the wellbeing of their employees. Checking in with your team is essential. And when you get feedback you can act on after talking with them, apply quick, reasonable changes to help make everyone’s experience better. 

Restaurant Growing Too Fast? How to Slow Down

If you've decided that your restaurant really is growing too quickly and you can't keep up, you'll have some hard decisions to make about how to adjust. 

  • Increase prices. Increasing prices can dissuade some of your consumer demand while generating additional income to help you grow your business. However, if price hikes are too steep, you could lose far more customers than you intended. Be very careful with price increases as a technique for managing restaurant growth
  • Make a waitlist. Reservations are a classic and effective way to manage growth. After all, if more people want to eat at your restaurant than there is room for, they'll need to wait. Reservations can be a good technique for sustainable restaurant growth, especially if you are a high-end restaurant. However, if you offer more affordable, casual fare, it's unlikely that your customers will be willing to make a reservation.

How to Keep Growing

Perhaps your restaurant has been growing steadily for some time and you're ready to take the next steps in expanding. Restaurant scaling strategies can be challenging to implement, and how you grow depends entirely on your business model, but there are some tactics that tend to work well for many restaurants. 

Before you take a meaningful step to continue growing, collect data about how many customers are coming to your restaurant and how many are likely being turned away because of the long waits or high prices that you're using to control demand. Then, determine which growth tactic is best for you.

Physically Expand the Restaurant

If you have room to build or purchase more property around you, this can be a simple and natural way to increase your restaurant's capability. If you believe that you have lots of local traffic, don't want to try a new location, but can't handle the current demand, getting bigger is a good first step for sustainable restaurant growth

Depending on your situation, this tactic could be reasonably affordable, like renting out the space next door for overflow seating, or could be very expensive, like building an entire new section to the building.

Open a New Location

A logical solution to increased demand is additional locations. As a restaurant chain grows, it's constantly opening up new locations to meet the growing demand. Even when a restaurant has hundreds of locations in multiple states, determining how many additional franchises need to be added is difficult. 

However, if you're seeing consistently high profits at your current location, especially if you've already implemented restaurant scaling strategies and are still ready for more, take the restaurant growth planning leap into investing in a new location.

Open a Food Truck

Opening a food truck is a great way to try out opening a new location and deal with a restaurant growing too fast, without having to make nearly the investment required for a second location. You can test a food truck in various places where you may be thinking about opening a new location to gauge demand as well. 

By bringing the food truck to the same series of locations regularly, you can get a sense of the response in these areas and whether opening an entire restaurant is a good idea. 

Furthermore, the food truck helps draw traffic away from your overcrowded main restaurant. People who love the food your restaurant serves can get it from the food truck instead of your restaurant, effectively managing restaurant growth without limiting sales for your business. 

Open a Ghost Kitchen

If you get lots of pickup or delivery orders, a ghost kitchen may be the most practical solution for you. A ghost kitchen can prepare food to your brand's quality standards, but without the investment of a dining room or in-person customer service. You can quickly open a ghost kitchen to respond to a restaurant growing too fast and immediately earn more while making customers happier. 

Take Control of Your Restaurant Growth

Watching your restaurant grow is, of course, satisfying and exciting. However, it can also be anxiety-provoking to worry about whether you can keep pace with demand. 

As rush hours extend into entire nights of barely being able to keep up with the line at your door, it can be hard to feel good about your growth. 

Use the tools for restaurant growth planning discussed here to decide whether you're growing too fast, deal with growth as it happens, and expand when you're ready.