There’s a lot that goes into opening a new restaurant. From the menu to the decor to the staff, every detail needs to be perfect before you open your doors to the public. But one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to do a soft opening or a grand opening.

What is a soft opening?

A soft launch also referred to as a soft opening, is a trial run of your new business with a select group of people — a limited number of customers, friends, and family. This allows you to work out any kinks and perfect your offerings before making a big splash with your official launch.

Grand Opening Vs Soft Opening – Which is better?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but there are definitely pros and cons to both approaches. If you’re looking for a big splash and want to make a statement with your grand opening, then go for it! A grand opening is a great way to generate buzz and get people excited about your new restaurant. Just be prepared for the added pressure of everything having to be perfect – from the food to the service to the decor.

On the other hand, a soft opening can be a more relaxed way to transition into business. This approach allows you to work out any hiccups in your operations before you’re under the microscope of a grand opening. Plus, it gives you a chance to build up some hype by generating word-of-mouth buzz with friends, family, and local community members who come in for a sneak peek.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to do a grand opening or a soft opening for your restaurant comes down to your specific goals and priorities. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so it’s important to weigh all the factors before making a decision.

When to do a soft opening?

A soft opening allows you to test out your menu, staff, and operations and see how your business runs before you open to the general public. It’s also a great way to get feedback from customers so you can make any necessary adjustments before your official launch.

If any of the following describe your immediate goals, a soft opening is recommended:

  • Determining if your employees are up-to-date on food safety guidelines
  • Making sure your restaurant follows the standards established by the food service industry
  • Reviewing customer feedback
  • Analyzing data and testing strategies for better and more prepared official grand openings

Benefits of restaurant soft opening

Marketing strategy

A soft launch with good reviews can drum up a lot of interest and hype. Potential diners can get a sneak preview of your food, the type of cuisine you serve, and an insight into your service quality.

Testing your operational capacity

This step is key in allowing you to identify areas that need more attention so that you can have the time to fix them. If you get complaints from customers about how long they have to wait, you can work on ways to cut down the wait time without sacrificing the quality of service.

Improvement of processes

It’s crucial to have a list of things to do and a list of things to observe during a soft opening. This way, you can use the information from the lists and guest feedback to tell your staff what worked well and what didn’t work well after the soft opening. This will help your employees be aware of what they should keep in mind when providing service to customers.

Planning for a soft opening

Here are a few things to consider when planning a restaurant soft opening event:

  • Train your employees

    It’s important to make sure your staff is well-versed in food safety and customer service protocols. All of your employees should be familiar with the proper procedures for storing, preparing, and serving food, as well as providing excellent customer service.

  • Make an invitation list

    You’ll need to make a guest list for the soft launch, which will be determined by the type of clientele you’re looking to attract, where your restaurant is located, and what kind of food you’ll be serving.

  • Decide how many days your soft launch will last

    Usually, restaurants plan a soft launch of three days to two weeks to get a realistic idea about the objectives of a soft launch and assess service standards based on customer feedback. 

  • Create a menu for the soft opening in advance

    Develop a game plan for your soft launch by creating a menu that accurately reflects your overall culinary vision and approach. This could include targeting a specific type of diner or debuting a new style of cooking that your competitors don’t offer.

  • Decide on the price details

    Most restaurants have special discounted pricing for the limited time of the soft launch to enable customers to try out different items on the menu. Prices should be adjusted to reflect the menu and portion size- The items should be priced well to attract orders from customers.

  • Use customer feedback to help you grow your business

    It’s important to take the time to listen to what your customers are saying and make changes accordingly, such as increasing portion size or making sure employees offer a warm welcome. Taking these steps will help you keep your business thriving in the long run.

  • Digitize all operational checklists

    If you haven’t already, dig into all your kitchen, front-of-house checklists, SOPs, and other daily tasks and make them available on an app like KNOW that can support fully digitizing these processes for your restaurant. Getting rid of noisy chat apps, messy paperwork, and spreadsheets is always a good idea!

The bottom line

A soft opening is the best way to ensure a successful launch for your new restaurant. By testing out your menu, staff, and operations beforehand, you can avoid any costly mistakes and make sure everything is just right before going live to the public. Plus, with the right marketing and promotion strategies, you can attract plenty of customers even before your grand opening. So why wait? Get planning today!

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