Why Do Restaurants Fail and How to Save a Failing Restaurant

How to Save a Failing RestaurantManaging a restaurant presents a formidable challenge. When coupled with the apprehension of overseeing a struggling restaurant, it can be incredibly overwhelming to navigate the intricacies of these various obligations.

In the following sections, we impart knowledge on recognizing the indicators of a faltering restaurant.

Subsequently, we offer insights into revitalizing a declining eatery by examining the pivotal elements that contribute to its triumph and formulating a comprehensive strategy for restaurant reinvigoration

How to Save a Failing Restaurant During COVID-19

Amid the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, rescuing a struggling restaurant has become a testament to resilience and adaptability. Navigating through lockdowns, limited capacities, and shifting consumer behaviors, restaurant owners have been compelled to reevaluate every facet of their operations.

From implementing innovative delivery and takeout options to ensuring rigorous health and safety measures, the journey of saving a failing restaurant during these trying times has demanded a delicate balance between resourcefulness and compassion. Beyond financial strategies, success has hinged on fostering a sense of community support and maintaining open lines of communication with patrons.

As the industry continues to evolve in response to the pandemic’s fluctuations, the task of revitalizing a restaurant extends far beyond the kitchen, embracing a holistic approach that encompasses both practicality and empathy.

Restaurant Failure Rate Statistics

In the dynamic UK culinary landscape, the resilience of restaurants is juxtaposed with the stark reality of closure rate statistics, particularly in the post-COVID era. Recent data paints a vivid picture of the challenges faced by the industry. Following the upheaval caused by the pandemic, restaurant closures witnessed a marked increase, with a notable 25% of restaurants across the UK having closed their doors permanently.

This represents a significant shift from the pre-pandemic average. The unprecedented nature of the global health crisis has underscored the intricate balancing act required for restaurant sustainability. These statistics highlight the pressing need for innovative strategies, unwavering customer dedication, and agile adaptations to consumer preferences.

Amidst this landscape of change, restaurateurs display remarkable tenacity, reflecting their commitment to not only defy these statistics but also redefine the future of dining experiences in the UK.

Why Do Restaurants Fail?

Our goal is to guide you towards achieving restaurant triumph by shedding light on the prevalent triggers and indications of the “failing restaurant syndrome.”

To begin, let’s delve into the three primary factors behind restaurant failures:

  1. Unfavorable Location
  2. Inadequate Experience
  3. Recruitment of Incompatible Personnel

Further down, we provide comprehensive insights into each of these factors, along with additional contributors to the decline of restaurants.

Much of our information draws from the insights of Cornell’s “Why Restaurants Fail” study, helping us to outline these reasons in greater detail.

1. Bad location

The significance of location cannot be overstated when embarking on a restaurant venture. It is imperative that your chosen site harmonizes seamlessly with your restaurant’s essence. Consider this: selecting a locale in an area where the predominant age group is 50, while your prime demographic is millennials, would be a notable mismatch.

Additional location-related concerns encompass factors such as limited pedestrian flow, suboptimal visibility, exorbitant rent, and a saturation of competitors in the vicinity. Assessing the accessibility of your restaurant’s premises and the availability of parking is pivotal. These considerations demand answers once you’ve clearly defined your target clientele, enabling you to devise strategies for mitigating the challenges posed by an unfavorable location.

2. Lack of experience

This advice holds true for all individuals, but it carries particular relevance for proprietors who, despite their earnest efforts, may lack the requisite expertise to effectively own and oversee a restaurant. The role of a restaurant owner demands a specific skill set that not everyone possesses.

Inexperience and skill gaps are most evident in the realm of accounting. As a restaurant owner, a familiarity with restaurant accounting procedures is indispensable to ensure the seamless operation of your establishment. Neglecting even the minor task of regularly updating financial figures can have dire consequences, potentially precipitating a restaurant’s decline due to inaccurate cost assessments. It’s crucial to bear in mind that enlisting the aid of an experienced professional to salvage your restaurant comes at a significant financial investment.

3. Hiring the wrong people

The impact of hiring the wrong individuals cannot be underestimated, especially within the context of the restaurant industry. The success of a restaurant hinges on the collective efforts of its team, and making misguided staffing choices can have far-reaching consequences.

Hiring employees who do not align with the restaurant’s values, work ethic, or customer service standards can disrupt the harmony of the establishment. The wrong hires may lead to subpar customer experiences, increased staff turnover, and a decline in overall operational efficiency.

Thus, meticulous consideration and diligent evaluation of potential hires are paramount in fostering a cohesive and dedicated workforce that contributes positively to the restaurant’s success.

4. Bad staff management

Effective staff management is the cornerstone of a well-functioning restaurant, and poor management practices can have detrimental effects on both the team and the business as a whole. Failing to provide clear direction, open communication, and proper training can result in a disengaged and unmotivated staff.

This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in service quality, customer dissatisfaction, and internal conflicts. Additionally, inadequate scheduling and an inability to address concerns can erode team morale and cohesion.

The impact of bad staff management reverberates throughout the restaurant, underscoring the significance of nurturing a supportive work environment that empowers employees to excel and contribute positively to the overall success of the establishment.

5. Subpar food quality

The quality of food served in a restaurant is paramount to its reputation and success. Subpar food quality can swiftly erode customer loyalty and tarnish the restaurant’s image.

Whether it’s inconsistency in taste, improperly cooked dishes, or the use of low-quality ingredients, these issues can deter patrons from returning and even lead to negative reviews. Negative word-of-mouth spreads quickly, making it crucial for restaurants to uphold high culinary standards.

Maintaining an unwavering commitment to delivering well-prepared, flavorful, and visually appealing dishes is essential in satisfying customers’ expectations and building a loyal customer base.

6. Bad customer service

Exceptional customer service is the cornerstone of a thriving restaurant, and the repercussions of providing subpar service can be profound. Poor customer service, characterized by inattentiveness, rudeness, or slow response times, can significantly diminish the overall dining experience.

Unhappy customers are more likely to share their negative encounters, potentially deterring others from visiting and tarnishing the restaurant’s reputation. In an industry where word-of-mouth and online reviews carry substantial weight, neglecting the importance of exceptional service can lead to decreased patronage, lost revenue, and lasting damage to the restaurant’s image.

Prioritizing friendly, efficient, and attentive customer interactions is essential for creating a positive dining atmosphere and fostering lasting relationships with patrons.

7. Not enough starting capital

Adequate starting capital is the lifeblood of any restaurant venture, and underestimating its importance can have profound consequences. Insufficient initial funding can lead to a host of challenges, from compromised menu quality and limited marketing efforts to inadequate staffing and slow business growth.

Operating without a robust financial foundation may result in strained resources, hindering the ability to weather unexpected expenses or seasonal fluctuations. Lack of starting capital can limit the restaurant’s ability to invest in crucial areas such as equipment upgrades, interior design, and staff training.

Recognizing the significance of having ample financial resources at the outset is pivotal in ensuring a restaurant’s sustainability and ability to navigate the competitive landscape effectively.

8. Lack of a clear vision

A clear and well-defined vision serves as the guiding compass for any successful restaurant. The absence of a distinct and compelling vision can lead to a lack of direction and coherence in every aspect of the establishment. Without a clear sense of purpose, restaurants might struggle to define their unique selling points, target audience, and overall identity.

This can result in confused messaging, inconsistent branding, and an inability to differentiate from competitors. Moreover, a lack of vision can impact decision-making processes, making it challenging to set achievable goals or devise strategies for growth.

Establishing a clear and inspiring vision is fundamental to shaping the restaurant’s identity, fostering innovation, and ultimately creating a memorable dining experience that resonates with both customers and stakeholders.

9. No marketing

Effective marketing is an indispensable component of any thriving restaurant’s strategy, and neglecting this crucial aspect can lead to missed opportunities and limited visibility. Operating without a robust marketing plan can result in reduced awareness among potential customers, hindering the restaurant’s ability to attract and retain patrons.

The absence of strategic marketing efforts can also impede the establishment’s ability to communicate its unique offerings, promotions, and events to the target audience. In a competitive culinary landscape, where diners have an array of choices, the lack of marketing can lead to decreased foot traffic, stagnant growth, and an underutilization of the restaurant’s full potential.

Recognizing the value of effective marketing and investing resources in promotional activities is pivotal in reaching a wider audience and establishing a strong presence in the market.

Menu planning and thoughtful pricing are intricate facets that significantly influence a restaurant’s success. Overlooking the importance of meticulous menu design and pricing strategy can lead to a host of challenges. A poorly planned menu might lack variety, fail to cater to diverse tastes, or omit key dietary considerations, resulting in customer dissatisfaction and limited repeat business.

Likewise, improper pricing—whether it’s setting prices too high or too low—can impact the restaurant’s perceived value and profitability. An ill-structured menu and pricing strategy can also lead to overordering or wastage of ingredients, affecting both operational efficiency and financial sustainability.

Recognizing the significance of a well-curated menu, featuring an array of appealing dishes at appropriate price points, is vital in ensuring a satisfying dining experience and optimizing the restaurant’s revenue potential

How to Save a Failing Restaurant

Armed with insights into identifying the signs of a struggling restaurant, you might find yourself asking, “What steps can I take if my restaurant is facing challenges?”

The solution lies in these 13 invaluable restaurant turnaround strategies, meticulously designed to rescue your establishment from closure and set it on a path towards renewed success.

1. Spruce up your menu

Breathing new life into your failing restaurant begins with a menu revitalization. Consider reevaluating the offerings to ensure they resonate with current culinary trends and customer preferences.

By introducing innovative dishes, accommodating dietary requirements, and striking a balance between familiar favorites and exciting additions, you can reignite diners’ interest and excitement. Alongside this, strategically pricing the menu items to reflect their value while aligning with market standards can entice patrons.

This menu makeover not only renews the dining experience but also demonstrates your commitment to adapting and catering to evolving tastes, ultimately playing a pivotal role in steering your restaurant towards a triumphant resurgence

2. Consider adjusting your opening hours

Exploring the option of adjusting your restaurant’s opening hours can be a strategic move to invigorate your failing establishment. Assessing the timing of operations in relation to peak customer traffic and demand patterns is essential. By aligning your hours with when your target audience is most likely to dine out, you can optimize foot traffic and increase revenue potential.

Moreover, flexible opening hours that accommodate lunch, dinner, and even brunch services can cater to diverse schedules and preferences, enhancing the accessibility and appeal of your restaurant.

This thoughtful adjustment not only enhances customer convenience but also showcases your commitment to meeting their needs, contributing to the overall turnaround efforts and restoring your restaurant’s vitality.

3. Use a table booking system

Incorporating a table booking system can be a game-changing strategy for rejuvenating your struggling restaurant. This technology-driven approach streamlines the reservation process, offering customers the convenience of securing their dining experience in advance. By minimizing wait times and ensuring efficient seating arrangements, you enhance customer satisfaction while optimizing table turnover.

Additionally, a well-integrated booking system provides valuable data insights, enabling you to anticipate demand, allocate resources effectively, and tailor your offerings based on customer preferences.

Embracing this technology not only modernizes your restaurant’s operations but also reinforces your commitment to delivering exceptional service, ultimately playing a pivotal role in rescuing your restaurant from decline

4. Organise special events

Injecting new energy into your struggling restaurant can involve the strategic organization of special events. Hosting themed nights, exclusive tastings, live performances, or seasonal celebrations can draw in both loyal patrons and new customers, creating a buzz around your establishment.

These events not only provide unique experiences but also offer opportunities to showcase your culinary expertise and creativity. By curating memorable moments, you differentiate your restaurant from competitors and foster a sense of community among diners.

Additionally, such events generate social media buzz and word-of-mouth promotion, helping to broaden your restaurant’s reach and rejuvenate its image. The infusion of excitement and variety through special events can be a powerful catalyst in revitalizing your restaurant’s appeal and reversing its decline

5. Build a relationship with repeat customers

Building a strong rapport with repeat customers is a vital strategy for breathing new life into your struggling restaurant. These valued patrons are your restaurant’s advocates, and cultivating a personalized connection can work wonders in transforming their loyalty into a powerful asset. Remembering their preferences, offering exclusive perks, and engaging in genuine conversations demonstrate your genuine appreciation for their continued support.

By making them feel like a part of your restaurant family, you create an emotional bond that transcends transactional interactions. These loyal patrons can become enthusiastic promoters, attracting new customers through positive word-of-mouth and reviews.

Nurturing these relationships not only reinvigorates your restaurant’s atmosphere but also reinforces its position as a cherished dining destination, contributing to its successful turnaround.

6. Analyse your finances

Conducting a comprehensive analysis of your restaurant’s finances is a pivotal step in orchestrating a successful turnaround. Scrutinizing revenue streams, expenses, and profit margins provides invaluable insights into the financial health of your establishment. Identifying areas of inefficiency, cost overruns, or underperforming menu items can guide strategic decision-making.

Moreover, a thorough financial assessment empowers you to implement targeted cost-cutting measures, optimize pricing strategies, and allocate resources more effectively.

By maintaining a keen focus on your financial data, you can make informed choices that align with the realities of your business, ultimately playing a decisive role in steering your restaurant towards financial stability and renewed prosperity

7. Go through customer reviews

Delving into customer reviews can offer a wealth of perspectives that are instrumental in revitalizing your struggling restaurant. Feedback from patrons provides valuable insights into their experiences, shedding light on areas that require improvement and highlighting aspects that resonate positively.

By carefully analyzing both positive and negative reviews, you gain a clear understanding of customer preferences, service shortcomings, and menu strengths. This informed approach enables you to make targeted enhancements to customer service, menu offerings, and overall dining ambiance.

Moreover, addressing customer feedback demonstrates your receptiveness to their opinions and commitment to delivering an exceptional experience.

Utilizing customer reviews as a guiding compass can significantly contribute to reviving your restaurant’s reputation, enhancing customer satisfaction, and guiding its successful revival.

8. Offer online delivery

Embracing online delivery services can serve as a transformative strategy to rejuvenate a struggling restaurant. In an era where convenience is paramount, offering customers the option to enjoy your cuisine from the comfort of their homes can expand your reach and revenue potential. Partnering with popular food delivery platforms enables you to tap into a broader audience and adapt to changing consumer behaviors.

By streamlining the online ordering and delivery process, you enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. This move not only caters to the demands of the modern dining landscape but also positions your restaurant as an adaptable and customer-centric establishment.

Integrating online delivery not only opens new avenues for growth but also redefines your restaurant’s presence, catalyzing a dynamic turnaround effort that can breathe new life into your business

9. Rightsize your staff

Right-sizing your staff is a crucial step in revitalizing a struggling restaurant. Ensuring that your workforce aligns with the current operational needs and customer demand can significantly impact efficiency and cost management.

By carefully evaluating staffing levels during peak and off-peak hours, you can optimise staffing resources without compromising service quality. Striking the right balance between front-of-house and kitchen staff can enhance customer experience while minimising unnecessary expenses.

Retraining and cross-training employees can enhance their skill sets, enabling them to adapt to varied roles as required. This strategic approach to staffing not only contributes to improved service delivery but also plays a pivotal role in achieving financial stability and steering your restaurant toward a successful turnaround

10. Use social media

Leveraging the power of social media is a dynamic strategy to rejuvenate a struggling restaurant. Establishing a strong online presence through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can help you connect with both loyal patrons and potential customers. By showcasing visually appealing images of your dishes, sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses, and announcing special promotions or events, you can create an engaging narrative that resonates with your target audience.

Social media also offers an avenue for direct interaction, allowing you to promptly respond to customer inquiries and address feedback. Harnessing the viral nature of online sharing, your restaurant can attract attention and generate buzz, translating into increased foot traffic and broader brand awareness.

The strategic utilization of social media not only bolsters your marketing efforts but also modernizes your restaurant’s approach, playing a pivotal role in orchestrating a successful turnaround

11. Bring in a consultant

Engaging the expertise of a seasoned consultant can be a transformative step in reviving a struggling restaurant. A consultant brings an objective, fresh perspective to the table, offering insights derived from their industry knowledge and experience.

They can conduct comprehensive assessments of various aspects, from menu offerings and pricing strategies to operational efficiencies and customer service protocols. Armed with data-driven recommendations, a consultant can guide you in making informed decisions, implementing effective changes, and realigning your restaurant’s trajectory towards success.

Their guidance can catalyze innovation, streamline operations, and introduce best practices that resonate with current market trends. Collaborating with a consultant not only provides actionable solutions but also infuses your restaurant with newfound energy and direction, playing a pivotal role in orchestrating a triumphant turnaround

12. Consider refinancing

Exploring the option of refinancing can be a strategic move to breathe new life into a struggling restaurant’s financial health. Amidst challenging circumstances, reassessing your existing loans and financial arrangements can offer opportunities to secure more favorable terms, lower interest rates, or extended repayment schedules.

Refinancing can provide the necessary breathing space to manage operational expenses and implement vital improvements without putting undue strain on the business. Careful negotiation and research can lead to reduced monthly payments and improved cash flow, enabling you to redirect resources towards enhancing customer experience, marketing initiatives, or staff training.

This financial restructuring not only offers immediate relief but also positions your restaurant on a path towards long-term stability and successful revival.

13. Decide whether the concept is worth the effort

Assessing the viability of your restaurant concept is a pivotal step in navigating its uncertain future. Reflecting on whether the concept aligns with current market trends and customer preferences can help you determine if the effort to turn the restaurant around is worth pursuing.

If doubts persist about the concept’s resonance or potential profitability, seeking guidance from an insolvency practitioner becomes essential. Their expertise can provide a clear understanding of your financial situation, potential debt management strategies, and legal obligations. Collaborating with an insolvency practitioner offers insights into potential restructuring options, such as Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) or negotiations with creditors, that can help stabilize your business.

Ultimately, these decisions hinge on a comprehensive assessment that blends your determination with expert advice, guiding your restaurant towards the best course of action for its future.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my restaurant not making money?

Your restaurant is not making money due to Lack of menu planning and proper pricing. Keep in mind that the average restaurant profit margin is around 6%. To make sure you don't lose money, calculate your ideal food cost percentage, look at your prices, and re-price dishes that don't bring in money.

How do you know if a restaurant is struggling?

A struggling restaurant often exhibits signs such as declining foot traffic, reduced customer satisfaction, negative online reviews, increased employee turnover, financial difficulties, inconsistent food quality, and challenges in maintaining day-to-day operations. These indicators collectively suggest a need for intervention and strategic efforts to address the restaurant's underlying issues.


In the intricate world of restaurant management, understanding why restaurants fail is a valuable lesson for both aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned proprietors. The multifaceted nature of failure in this industry underscores the importance of a harmonious blend of culinary innovation, effective management, and responsive strategies.

Factors like location misalignment, financial mismanagement, inadequate marketing, and subpar customer experiences can culminate in the downfall of even the most promising establishments. By acknowledging these pitfalls and adopting a proactive approach that encompasses continual adaptation, customer-centricity, and financial prudence, restaurateurs can navigate the challenges and embrace the path to sustained success.

In this dynamic landscape, learning from past mistakes paves the way for a thriving dining scene that caters to ever-evolving tastes and demands.

Steve Jones Profile
Insolvency & Restructuring Expert at Business Insolvency Helpline

With over three decades of experience in the business and turnaround sector, Steve Jones is one of the founders of Business Insolvency Helpline. With specialist knowledge of Insolvency, Liquidations, Administration, Pre-packs, CVA, MVL, Restructuring Advice and Company investment.