Successful restaurants don’t sell food. They sell an experience.
After more than 25 years in the restaurant business, Soti Sonitis believes that making customers feel special is far more important than providing weekly specials. “Yes, you should have promotions. But that only attracts customers as long as special races. Great experience and great service is what brings people back over and over again.
Sonitis is the owner of Circus Circus, a franchise of casual restaurants in KwaZulu-Natal. He bought the first Circus Circus from its original owner about a year after it opened in Musgrave in 1994. Today the franchise consists of four restaurants – two in Durban and one each in Umhlanga and Amanzimtoti – and has grown into a local restaurant favorite. . Circus Circus also wants to pitch its tent in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the near future.
Sonitis believes that the focus on creating a memorable customer experience is exactly what has kept Circus Circus a success despite increasing pressure on South African consumers in recent years.
“This is what ensures that Circus Circus stays on people’s minds when they have the extra money to spend. In tough economic times, it’s just a matter of going back to basics and realizing that you have to work harder than the opposition.
This means that the ability to work with people and to manage and motivate staff is one of the most important characteristics Sonitis looks for in a potential Circus Circus franchisee. “Your staff is very important. They really are the people who make your business run. They’re the ones who sell your business and make sure you get bums in the seats. You need to create a culture of teamwork and respect for all team members.
Sonitis says it’s crucial to make sure every staff member understands that they are truly selling an experience. However, that doesn’t mean that other aspects of the restaurant can be overlooked. The Circus Circus brand and card also had to evolve to remain successful for nearly three decades in an increasingly competitive market. “There is no doubt that competition in the South African restaurant industry has increased. I think the number of restaurants must have tripled or even quadrupled compared to 20 years ago.
This means that Circus Circus must ensure that it stays in contact with its customers.
“It required us to make sure we fully understand our customers and what they want. We had to make sure we were in touch with what’s trending. The tastes of diners have definitely changed since the 1990s.
Circus Circus has responded to these changes with a menu that focuses on locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients. “We started out more as a cafe, but have grown into a casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The look and feel of restaurants has also changed. I don’t think we would have a lot of customers if everything was still like the 90s. ”
The decision to franchise Circus Circus was not made until 2009, when Sonitis found a perfect site to open a new branch, but realized that his team did not have the capacity to operate it.
He nevertheless ensures that each Circus Circus retains its own identity and does not feel like a franchisee.
Each restaurant is encouraged to develop its own decor and is encouraged to develop and manage its own specialties – with the added benefit of support from the operations manager and group leader of Circus Circus. “The chef in our group spends an equal amount of his time in each of the four restaurants helping chefs develop menu items and continually train them to make sure everything meets our standards. He’s here to say, “Let me show you how to do this over and over again. “
Sonitis advises anyone considering purchasing a restaurant franchise to seek out a franchisor who offers this same high level of support.
“A good franchisor will help you set everything up from the start and train you well. They will hold your hand and send their staff to help you when you have any difficulties. They will see you as a partner.
He says entrepreneurs should also thoroughly research any franchise before committing. “Pick up the phone and call existing franchisees. Ask for their advice. Ask them what they think is good or bad about the franchise. Ask what their challenges are. At least then you’ll know what the issues are, so you know what you’re getting into. “
Presented by Nedbank Franchising.