Restaurants in college towns have unique demands and challenges. Students are looking for diverse options, and there is plenty of competition. For an owner, this fast-paced environment can be fun and rewarding. Here are some great strategies to make your university location stand out.
Leverage Social Media
Today, it is essential for a successful restaurant owner to have a social media presence. Establishing an online persona via social media that students can relate to and interact with will draw more business to your location. For instance, if you sell pizza, you can post images of college students sharing a pie and having a good time. Students can share the post with others, plan to visit your establishment as a group and enjoy their own experiences.
Have an Efficient Ordering and Payment System
College students will have a better experience in your restaurant if they receive quick and efficient service. You can gain an advantage by implementing a mobile point of sale system (POS) that will streamline your ordering process. The system allows orders to go straight to the kitchen, allowing you time to focus on customer service. Servers can take orders tableside and enable students to pay with any convenient method. Your restaurant will have fast turn times, leaving you, your staff and your customers completely satisfied.
Offer Extended Hours
College students have schedules that differ from the rest of the world. They want the flexibility and convenience of dining at any time of the day or night. Providing extended hours will offer your customers more opportunities to visit your restaurant. You can open your doors early and use your mobile point of sale system to quickly place an order to provide timely breakfasts for students before class. If your restaurant is open 24 hours a day, you can accommodate students on any schedule.
Provide Healthy Options
College students looking for healthier food choices are becoming more common. They are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Some are choosing a strictly plant-based diet. Consider adding a few options to your menu to cater to these customers. Students will be more likely to gather at your restaurant as a group if everyone joining them has something they can enjoy.
Offer Food Allergy Alternatives
College students with food allergies or intolerances can face challenges when choosing where to eat their meals. You can instruct your staff to take a food allergy training course to accommodate customers with specific criteria. To ensure specialty orders will accommodate different needs entirely and efficiently, you can add unique directives to your mobile pos system. Your customers will appreciate your efforts and feel comfortable returning to your restaurant for future meals.
College students feel a sense of pride and loyalty to the school they are attending. Clothing, banners and sporting events all celebrate the area. Your restaurant can show the same pride by using locally sourced ingredients to prepare menu items and advertise them as a selling point. For instance, you can offer sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and sweet onions, all purchased from a local produce farm. You can celebrate bacon from a nearby ranch or feature beer from a local brewery on your menu.
Introduce a Unique Dining Experience
Offering a unique dining experience can contribute to the overall experience college students have while they are attending school. You can find simple creative ways to provide something memorable. For instance, if you live where it gets cold in the winter, consider hosting a pop-up event where you can serve hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll. This creativity provides an engaging experience for students who will relate it to their overall educational experience and prioritize your restaurant for future engagements.
Get Students Involved
Customer interaction and recruiting are great ways to involve students in your restaurant. They will feel engaged when they are encouraged to provide direct feedback and empowered if you give them the autonomy to make real-time decisions. You can ask students what they want to see on your menu and what changes will interest them when visiting the restaurant. Student ambassadors can share your restaurant’s relativity with campus tour guides to let future college students know how much your restaurant cares.
Owning a restaurant on or near campus means more than operating a food business. It provides a comfortable environment where all students will feel welcome and call it their home away from home. By implementing these tips and ideas, you will have a successful college town restaurant with a reputation that will last for generations.
successfully operating a university restaurant business requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the unique demands of college students. By leveraging social media, implementing efficient ordering and payment systems, offering extended hours, providing healthy options and food allergy alternatives, sourcing locally, introducing unique dining experiences, and involving students, restaurant owners can create a thriving establishment that stands out in a competitive college town environment. These strategies foster engagement, loyalty, and a sense of community among students, resulting in a successful and reputable restaurant that becomes a home away from home for generations of college students.