It's nice that we all take time at the start of the year to think about how we can better ourselves. While most of us are not going to stick with our New Year's resolutions for more than a few weeks, it's good that there's this time of year where we all take a moment to really look at ourselves. But self-reflection should not be limited to individuals.
Restaurant owners, now is a great time for some reflection on your business. Put aside, for a moment, your thoughts on what to do with your menu or whether you need to rethink your concept for an ever-changing dining audience. Instead, think about the little things you could do to making the dining experience just a little bit better for your customers. Here are some of our favorite "first world problems" we've come across in the last year, given without naming names and only a little bit of shade.
Make Sure Your Furniture is in Good Working Order
Of all the minor frustrations that come with dining out—waiting in lines, noisy people and so on—few things are as mildly infuriating than wobbly tables. Having to do that delicate dance of consuming your meal while not messing up everyone's plates is a needless complication that, at the very least, can be solved with some tactically deployed napkins. Make sure your chairs and especially your barstools are still structurally sound. Yes, everything falls victim to wear and tear, but that doesn't mean you can't be proactive about the situation.
Clean Your Soda Lines
Listen, I know some of you are judging me for complaining about the quality of my sugar water, but whether I'm buying a soda at a fast food spot or getting one to go with a filet mignon, if I'm paying for sugar water the sugar water should at least taste like the right sugar water. Clean soda lines not only affect you but your dining partners, because you know good and well if you get a bad soda the first thing you're going to do is pass it to a friend and say, "here, taste this."
If You Have Seasonal Menu Items, Let People Know What They Are
I have no problem with restaurants keeping their menu fresh, and I'm certainly never going to be one of those people that complains because something I enjoyed being taken off a menu. That said, if you mention on your website or on your menu that certain items are seasonal only, just go the extra step and say, "as of [date], we're currently serving items x, y and z." Word to the wise: more information about your menu is always a good thing, even if it makes it a little less pretty once printed.
Explain Your Parking Situation on Your Website
If the parking situation at your restaurant is bad, don't ignore it. In fact, I say do the opposite: really lean into the fact that the parking situation is not great. Acknowledge it, make a joke about it and then let people know what they need to know. Make it clear where they can't park, mention if you're bike- or transit-friendly and include a map. If we've lived here long enough to hear about you, we've lived here long enough to know that Houston parking can be a nightmare. It's just one of the costs of living in this amazing city.
Stop Advertising Yourself in the Bathroom
I get sending out press releases and buying web ads and doing TV interviews and all of the other things that come with promoting a restaurant. People won't find you if they don't know you're there. However, once people are in your spot, ease up on trying to sell yourself. No one has ever gone somewhere for a meal, walked into the bathroom, saw the Foursquare reviews you've printed out and stuck in picture frames and thought, "man, I can't wait to eat there!" Because they're there. They've probably read the reviews. Stop being silly. Get better bathroom art.