Crawl, Walk, Run, Sprint, Fly (Growing Your Takeaway Business the right way)
By Kevin MoyseCheap Takeaway Menus are a takeaway menu design and menu printing business which spends its days thinking about takeaway businesses: how they work, what they need, why they succeed or fail. What we know we have learned, deduced and discovered since we were a small business ourselves. We knew what we wanted to be and what we wanted to do and we also knew that a cheap takeaway menu design and menu printing business was no different to any other business: it had to grow from the work we put in, and it couldn’t be rushed. We had no desire or intention to be a flash in the pan.
The term ‘flash in the pan’ comes from the time of early flintlock muskets. Upon pulling the trigger the flint would often ignite the gunpowder in the lock-pan, causing a flash, but this would fail to set off the main charge. It would look impressive, but it would have no real effect. We’ve all seen businesses, large and small, who create that impressive flash but never make a mark and fizzle out. Takeaways are perhaps where this happens more often than most other business endeavours. ‘I know, let’s open a takeaway,’ someone says, thinking they’ll be raking it in in no time. Can’t be that hard, can it? So they throw a bucket of money at the idea, concentrating on everything flashy and ignoring the realities. And with a bright flash and a bang, they’re gone.
The true takeaway owners are those who know that they’re in for the long haul. They know that being a success and earning money comes from hard work, consistency, and planning. They know that you can’t just leap off a tall building and fly. Everything starts with a deliberate crawl. Sure they can have one eye on the sky and fully intend to be there one day, but they know that first comes that slow and careful movement forward.
When we talk about crawling it doesn’t mean you can’t walk. What it means is you are making a choice to be careful, to take things slowly and not expect everything all at once. In real terms what this means is building a solid foundation on which your takeaway business can grow. This is the most important stage in learning to fly and it includes the mundane but essential details like
You probably did most of this before you even set foot on the premises, but you can never have too much information about your business location, this includes the competition (How long have they been around? How well do they seem to be doing? How similar/different will your business be? What are they doing that would be useful for you to emulate?), the customer base (What kind of people live in your catchment area? How can you tailor your services to capitalise on this demographic?), and the culture of the area (Are there pubs and clubs? Is there any kind of nightlife close by? What days seem busiest/quietest?)
Preparation is key to getting a good start. Knowing that you have everything in place before you start taking orders will take more pressure off your shoulders than you realise. So sort out all your equipment, your menu, your suppliers, your banking, your licensing, your staff, your utilities, your business rates and anything else that means you won’t arrive at that embarrassing and unprofessional moment when you realise something is missing from the service you provide. (See also Marketing below.)
Can you provide the kind of quality, both in terms of food and service, which people expect from a modern takeaway? Is your chef good enough? Is the menu itself up to scratch? Do you buy in quality ingredients? Is everything presented well? Is your serving staff well trained? Are your delivery drivers efficient and polite? Does your takeaway menu stand out? Is your shop attractive, clean and enticing? These might seem like obvious questions to ask, but you would be surprised to learn how many people think cutting corners and ignoring quality is acceptable. Read this extreme example as proof of what happens when you don’t respect the need to maintain quality of food and quality of service.
This can be counted as part of your preparation but it deserves special attention because this is one of the aspects of your business which has the potential to help you fly. Marketing your business is perhaps the single most important way you can help it grow, and it should start before you cook for your first customer. Word of mouth is great but that needs time to gather momentum. What you need to be doing is making your presence known as widely as possible. Your ultimate goal is to become a part of your customers’ lives, a part of their mental landscape. That might mean popping up on their Facebook or Twitter feeds, or it could mean that menu magnetically attached to their fridge door. So look at marketing your takeaway every way you can. Social media is a great way to advertise for free so set up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and any other page you can think of or find. You can link to your website, present offers in real time, run short and specific campaigns for your followers, inform them of changes to any aspect of your business, and build up a database of customers alongside the contact information captured through telephone and website orders. Your most valuable marketing tool, though, is your takeaway menu. It has everything your business needs to display itself to your customers on a single document small enough to fit through a letterbox. So make sure you start from the right place with your menus. You want high quality printing of a professional design. You want to stand out from the other menus dropping through a customer’s door. Think about the content of your menu (click here for our tips on menu content). A well-produced takeaway menu will remain in your customers’ lives for a long time. Imagine that, your business in miniature, alive and well in countless homes, representing you and keeping you in people’s minds.
Marketing is a constant task, though. It needs continued thought and action. Never think it will take care of itself. It won’t.
When your business is upon its feet and you begin to walk, you will quickly recognise the advantage of that first crawl. Although you’ll still be learning, you’ll be balanced and picking up the pace. Little of that foundation we mentioned will have changed. You may have made some discoveries about your takeaway and adjusted things accordingly but by this point you’ll have a pretty clear idea about how your business works and where you might be able to take it. So as your speed and confidence increase you can introduce some more sophisticated methods into the running of your takeaway.
We’re going to start with marketing here because, to continue the metaphor, it is the sturdy pair of shoes you need to keep going forward. You will have done some marketing already and you will probably have learned some valuable lessons. Now you can step it up to the next level and develop a marketing strategy. There are dozens of different techniques, ideas and tricks you can employ to get the message out there. We have already touched on a few but take a look at our article on How to Market Your Takeaway Business for an in depth look at the sort of things you can do to keep your takeaway growing. This includes distributing your menus, offering incentives, and maximising the benefits of your takeaway’s website. For information on purchasing a food ordering website, why not pop over to our sister site, Cheap Takeaway Websites and take a look around.
You should be building up an ever larger and loyal customer base and keeping them sweet. You should have perfected every item on the menu to the point where you can go from order to delivery in the quickest possible time without even the tiniest drop in quality.
The walking stage is where most takeaways remain the longest, and there is nothing wrong with that. Maintaining a takeaway business which works and turns over a profit is the primary goal, and if you are managing to do that then by definition your takeaway is a successful one. Congratulations.
So you’re running. Your takeaway has proven itself to be solid and a money-maker. This is often the point where a lot of business owners relax and take their eye off the ball. Wrong! This is where you need to be smarter than ever, because not only are you continuing to do everything which got you to this point, you are also looking to do that little bit more, AND you are doing it at speed.
What you should be doing here is taking stock. Look at what has allowed you to break into this run. Analyse your success. What can you do better? What more can you do? Where can you reduce costs without losing quality? Where can you increase quality without increasing costs?
Still with the marketing? Oh yes. Keep going. Has your strategy been 100% successful? No, of course it hasn’t. Why not? Finding out the answer to that question and doing something about it will keep you heading in the right direction, down that runway, picking up speed.
Changing to stay the same
You can make changes to winning operation without losing those qualities which helped you win.
Is your food still great? Is your customer service still top notch? Do you or your staff need any refresher training? How about your brand image? Can it stand for a little spit and polish? Are you getting the best deals from your suppliers? By now you will be a valued customer, see what they can do for you in recognition of that. Does your equipment need upgrading? How about your payment system? Or your website?
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, you might say at this point. Fair enough, but remember that you want to be around for a long time. You’re not personally running here, your business is. You’ve got to keep up that forward momentum. You can still be you, just a newer, shinier version.
You’re already starting to feel like you’re going to fly soon; through everything you’ve done up to this point and everything you’ve learned, your success as a takeaway business has been earned and is generating its own momentum.
Sprinting is about moving towards the next evolutionary jump for your takeaway. Your business is leaving the competition in its wake (in fact they may be looking to model themselves after your success) and you are thinking what to do next. Don’t worry that you’re moving too fast to think clearly, because the truth is you need to be rattling along at this kind of pace to start generating the kind of ideas which will propel you upwards.
What you have achieved has been done through a combination of patience and planning, creativity and following certain rules. Keep in mind that even the stratospherically successful businesses try to mix tradition with innovation. Word of mouth is as valuable as it ever was, and these days you can combine it with high technology to multiply its impact. A beautifully designed and printed takeaway menu is as perhaps more pleasing to the eye than a website or a Facebook page, but they are equally necessary.
And keep that marketing going. Inject some fresh ideas alongside what you’re already doing. By now you will be in possession of so much information about your takeaway business and your customers that you will be able to anticipate their every need. You can now think about creating new needs your customers never knew they had, and then catering for them.
I think it’s safe to say that when your business is flying, you will know. The difference between sprinting and flying is that moment when you leave the ground, and once your takeaway does that your business is in a whole new world. The greatest success for a business owner is knowing that their business will be fine and continue to thrive if they take a step back from it. To be slightly more crass about it, you want to be making as much money as ever without doing the work. It could mean you’re now successful enough to employ the right person to take over the day to day running of the business, doing it your way and keeping the core idea which made your takeaway thrive. It could mean that you have hit on a unique and highly successful formula which has led to you opening more than one business and running them identically. You only need to look around you to see that as a distinct possibility. Or it could simply be that your business is such a well-oiled machine and so precisely positioned that you are experiencing the perfect storm of quality, price, customer base, location, marketing, reputation and business climate.
Whatever the weather, you wouldn’t have come this far without knowing not to take anything for granted. You’re flying because you’ve learned to fly, so once you’re up there you intend to stay. Keep your best attributes working their magic for you, but bear in mind that there’s always room for improvement and don’t get so stuck in your ways that you become unable to accept change. The world beneath you will change and you need to adjust accordingly. Stay informed, maintain quality control, keep marketing yourself, and look for those tiny tweaks, offers, deals, and improvements which will keep you standing out from the rest and soaring higher.
The takeaway which is flying is an example to all; proof – if proof is needed – that the slow crawl forward is essential when learning to stand upright, the sedate walk necessary in building strength, the accelerating run a natural stage before the sprint, and the sprint a confident launchpad to get you airborne.
Like we said, playing the long game is what a takeaway business is all about. And the food, of course. Mustn’t forget the food…