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Why a Soft Opening Matters for New Restaurants: Step-by-Step Guide

Unlock the secret to a thriving new restaurant with a powerful soft opening. Our step-by-step guide reveals the key to a successful launch. Learn more here!

5 mins readJune 19, 2022

Run Your Own Restaurant eBook

What Is a Soft Opening? A soft opening is a trial run for customer-facing businesses, such as restaurants or retail stores, allowing them to prepare their staff and gather real feedback before the official launch. Soft openings often feature an invite-only approach for family, friends, influencers, and members of the media with either a limited or full menu available.

How a Soft Opening Can Benefit Your Restaurant or Shop

Soft openings offer numerous benefits for businesses:

Trial experience: Staff can gain experience in a controlled environment with real customer interactions, allowing them to work out any issues in advance of an official launch.

Feedback: Collecting actionable feedback is a crucial part of the event, achieved through questionnaires or surveys given before attendees leave, allowing you to evaluate and improve overall operations.

Advertising: A soft opening can also serve as effective advertising to create a wider interest in your restaurant.

Embarking on the journey of opening a new restaurant is both thrilling and daunting. Among the crucial decisions lies the concept of a soft opening for your restaurant. In this concise guide, we unveil the significance of this strategic approach for new establishments.

From building anticipation to identifying areas of improvement, discover the invaluable insights that will empower you to navigate the critical early stages with confidence. Get ready to unleash the potential of your new venture!

Restaurant Opening

Opening a new restaurant goes beyond getting licenses and permits. Whether you're opening your first eatery, or expanding your food truck into a full-service restaurant, you'll know what to do by the time you're read this.

How Do You Perform a Soft Opening?

Planning and executing a successful soft opening for your restaurant requires careful consideration of various elements. Some common aspects to focus on include the menu, pricing, times, and guest list. Creating a rough timeline can help you stay on track, such as finalizing the menu six weeks prior and sending out invites four weeks in advance.

Five Steps for a Soft Opening

Follow these key steps for a seamless soft opening experience:

STEP 1: Build an Invitation List

When planning your soft opening, consider the various invitee options:

Friends and Family: They offer forgiving feedback and potential brand ambassadorship.

Local Businesses: They foster community, establish relationships, and aid future co-marketing efforts.

Media and Influencers: They provide reviews, generate buzz, and offer valuable feedback.

While friends and family are your most understanding invitees, they should be encouraged to be honest about the experience for comprehensive feedback. Inviting media and influencers carries risks but can lead to news coverage and social media exposure. Determine your guest list wisely to maximize the benefits of your soft opening and lay a foundation for future success.

STEP 2: Decide How Many Days You’ll Run Your Soft Opening

There are different strategies for conducting soft openings, including single-day events or multiple days. For instance, a restaurant could feature different menus on different days, providing comprehensive testing and staff training.

The duration of the soft opening depends on factors like budget and timelines, with shorter launches often associated with smaller budgets. Regardless of the approach, practicing and testing during the soft opening increases the chances of success when the official opening takes place.

STEP 3: Create a Menu or Plan for Your Soft Opening

When planning the menu for a soft opening, the choice between a full or limited menu depends on your goals. A limited menu is recommended for testing new dishes, gathering feedback, and optimizing the menu.

If the official opening is soon after the soft opening, featuring the full menu may be more suitable.

With a limited menu, you can provide an exceptional experience with fewer variables. However, with a full menu, you will be able to gauge the true dining experience of what it will be like upon opening.

STEP 4: Do You Charge for a Soft Opening?

The decision to charge for a soft restaurant opening can significantly impact its success and the perception of your brand. Charging a fee allows you to recoup costs and create a sense of value and exclusivity. However, potential guests may hesitate to pay for a testing event.

Offering a free opening attracts a larger audience, generates excitement, and provides valuable feedback. Yet, it comes with financial challenges and may attract people seeking freebies. Ultimately, the choice depends on your goals, target audience, and available resources.

STEP 5: Determine Pricing Details

When deciding on pricing strategies for a soft opening, three options are available: free, discounted, and full price.

  • Free Option: Offering free food builds goodwill and attracts customers, though it can be costly.

  • Full-Price Option: Charging full price may save expenses but may make it harder to attract guests and make them feel special.

  • Discounted-Price Option: A discounted menu strikes a balance, offsetting costs while making guests feel valued.

Pricing decisions should consider the desired impact on customers, cost implications, and the goal of building customer loyalty and goodwill. Offering freebies or thank-you gestures can further enhance the soft opening experience.

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