Food Biz: Five Tips for Taking Over A Restaurant - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Lawrence Page reopened the famed Pink Tea Cup in Greenwich Village.

Small businesses have been taking a beating over the last few years do to the economy and famous soul food restaurants are no exceptions. The Pink Tea Cup has been a legendary eating establishment in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood for over 56 years. But last year, it was on the verge of closing forever until filmmaker Lawrence Page stepped in and bought the rights to the name and reopened the famed restaurant in a new location. With previous experience running several French bistro’s in Manhattan, Page knew that in order to make the restaurant successful again he would have to continue to fulfill the desires of the older patrons (who started a web campaign to save the establishment) but add new attractions to arouse the interest of new customers.

If you take over an existing restaurant or food business you can end up finding yourself back in financial trouble if you don’t learn to find a balance between the new and the old ways, says Page, who also owns The Actors Playhouse next door. For Food Biz this week here are his five tips to keep your oven hot and your customers satisfied.

Communicate the change in ownership to old customers. When you buy a brand that has been around for a long time, show your long time customers that you appreciate their business by giving them customer appreciation discounts. Get to know them and reestablish yourself as the new owner. When people are used to brands they are not used to change. Let them know that their favorite staples will remain on the menu. Assure them that you are going to carry on the brand just as good as it was before, if not better.

Add some new staples. When if comes to change you have to be very careful with established restaurant brands. Keep on the old staples, but make sure that the quality of the food is upgraded to current standards. “Companies come out with better quality and healthier products,” says Page. Familiarize yourself with food events, new taste profiles, quality control and other things that will make a difference to new and old recipes. Let older customers know about the new changes so they won’t be shocked.

Bump up the restaurants profile. Don’t be afraid to step up your game and compete with new businesses. Do things that have never been done at that restaurant before. Increase advertising and marketing. Play on new strategies in social networking. Use Twitter, Facebook, and geo-location services like Foursquare to find new customers. Think with the new generation in mind. It is a hard pill to swallow to change something that has been around awhile, but if you don’t you could be out of business fast, says Page.

Consider hiring new staff. Analyze the current staff and determine if they have what it takes to move forward with your changes. You’ll probably have to get rid of a lot of staff. Put them to work to see what they can do. Keep the ones that are willing to listen to change and who are loyal to your vision of the company and not the previous owner’s vision. Make sure to hire staff who do not always do things by the book and who know how to be flexible through challenges. For example, if your credit card reader goes down, instead of sending customers away, the manager should offer them the option to leave their credit information behind to be charged once the system is back up.

Be hands on. When you buy a well known brand make sure the brand goes the exact way that you want it to go. A lot of restaurants with famous owners end up closing because they put their money behind it and the name in front of it, but they don’t take a hands on approach to making sure their dictates are followed.

For more information on running a restaurant read:

Where the Eating is Easy

Dining Out At 1300 On Fillmore

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.