Should You Hire a Restaurant Consultant?

a photo of Bianca Esmond

Bianca Esmond

5 min read

Apr 4, 2023

Should You Hire a Restaurant Consultant?

When you’re a savvy, ambitious restaurateur, it’s natural to want to do as much as you can for your business by yourself — from planning your menu to bookkeeping. However, there may come a point when you realize it’s best to focus on your natural talents and find experts to help with the rest.

That’s where restaurant consultants come in.

While the word “consultant” can sound intimidatingly corporate, it simply refers to an external expert who can help you tackle business challenges. Restaurant consultants specialize in every aspect of the restaurant business and serve clients of all kinds, from independent operators to international franchises. If you’ve been considering outsourcing some help, this guide will help you decide who to hire and when.

Table of Contents:

What Is a Restaurant Consultant and What Do They Do?

A restaurant consultant is an external expert you hire to help you improve your business. Consultants offer insight, advice and guidance to either address problem areas within your business or achieve goals and objectives.You can hire them as needed or contract with them long-term for ongoing recommendations and advice. 

Restaurant consultants that are generalists might help you open a restaurant while a specialist might solve a more specific aspect, such as menu development, financial planning or franchising. Basically, if you’re facing a restaurant or business-related challenge, there’s a consultant who can help you.

Who Should Consider Hiring a Restaurant Consultant?

Restaurant consultants can help you at any stage in your business. Here are a few scenarios in which you might consider working with one:

You lack the internal resources to address a problem. Let’s say you want to add a dessert menu to your restaurant, but your executive chef doesn’t have the right experience. You could hire a pastry consultant to develop a menu and train your staff to prepare these recipes. Consultants don’t become permanent members of your team, so you won’t have to spend time on hiring and training initiatives in order for them to help you.
You’ve noticed a decline in reservations, and you don’t know why. A restaurant consultant can help you find the cause of issues like this in your business and provide solutions. In this case, a consultant might look into your booking process and see that your online presence makes it difficult to make direct reservations
You want to expand your business. Whether you want to replicate the restaurant concept, start a franchise or leverage your experience to open a new venue offering different cuisine, a consultant with expansion experience can advise you on best practices.
You want to manage your cash flow wisely. Whether you want to make the most of your revenue or have received an investment in your business and want to spend it well, a restaurant consultant can evaluate your finances and suggest the best ways to use your resources.

Types of Restaurant Consultants

From generalists to specialists, there are countless types of restaurant consultants. These are some of the most common types you might consider working with.

Restaurant Management Consultant

A restaurant management consultant is a generalist that advises on the operations side of your business: creating and executing a business strategy, optimizing front-of-house operations, navigating supply chain issues, training staff, identifying opportunities for increasing revenue and much more. 

Restaurant Marketing Consultant

This type of restaurant consultant helps you identify, attract and retain your ideal customer. Marketing consultants also consider your competition and help you differentiate your business as they create your marketing strategy. They provide omnichannel marketing services, such as branding and rebranding consulting, social media marketing and traditional advertising.

Restaurant Design Consultant

You might hire a design consultant to design your floor plan and choose decor before you open. If you’re already up and running, you might hire this type of consultant to optimize your seating layout so that it boosts revenue and looks good.

Restaurant Menu Consultant

A menu consultant is an expert in menu development, business and marketing. They can help you create recipes, calculate food cost percentages, price menu items, advise on food safety best practices, and engineer your menu to maximize profits.

Restaurant Beverage Consultant

While some restaurant menu consultants also offer beverage consulting services, many restaurants and bars seek consultants to help build out their beverage programs. Beverage consultants can help build a cocktail menu, source wines and beers and make valuable connections with distributors.

What Do Restaurant Consultants Charge?

The fee structure for restaurant consultants vary depending on how you want them to help you. These are the most common pricing strategies consultants use.

Hourly Pricing

Restaurant consultants that charge by the hour command rates of between $14 and $125 per hour, with an average rate of nearly $50.

An hourly consultant might be an affordable option if you’re looking for advice gained over a virtual meeting or phone call where you can ask the expert questions, like “Should my restaurant be on TikTok?” or “how can I introduce seasonal menus into my business model?”

Project-Based Pricing

If you need assistance with a longer-term project or issue, you might consider working with a consultant throughout the duration of the project. This is called project-based pricing. In these instances, the consultant will quote you a set project fee, which you’ll know ahead of time so you can budget appropriately. 

Depending on the project’s scope, project-based work could cost anywhere from several hundreds of dollars to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Retainer-Based Pricing

While project-based pricing is suitable for a project that has a defined endpoint, a consultant may charge you a retainer (a set amount every month) for ongoing, open-ended work. Managing your restaurant’s social media presence is an example of something that would likely warrant a retainer. 

Retainers can range from several hundreds to several thousands of dollars per month.

Where Can You Find Restaurant Consultants?

Leverage these resources to find restaurant consultants:

Google: A quick Google search for “restaurant consultants near me” or for a specific type of restaurant consultant can help you identify several options.
Referral: Ask fellow restaurant owners who they recommend working with.
Restaurant industry organizations: Organizations like your local business improvement district or the National Restaurant Association have connections to restaurant consultants. 
Conferences: Many speakers at restaurant conferences offer consulting services.
Expert networks: Companies like DeepBench and MeasureMatch act as consultant matchmaking services and do the legwork of finding a restaurant consultant for you.

What to Look for When Hiring a Restaurant Consultant

Investing in a restaurant consultant can be scary, but you’ll increase your odds of hiring a great restaurant consultant if you consider these factors:

Expertise: Make sure the consultant has a relevant degree or has worked in a related field for a number of years. Usually, the more years of experience a consultant has, the more they’ll charge.
Testimonials and reviews: Consultants who offer testimonials and reviews from past clients help ensure you work with someone who is knowledgeable, professional, and effective.
Results: Ask consultants to provide case studies or proven results from past clients to prove their track record.
Responsiveness: Ask how you’ll communicate with the professional and how often they’ll be available to you. If it’s hard to reach the pro, you might go with someone more readily available.
Fees: Make sure the consultant’s fees work with your budget. If you can’t afford a retainer or project, ask about doing a consulting call every month or so to gain insights you can attempt to implement yourself.

Running a Restaurant: It Takes a Village

Restaurants are dynamic businesses. While you can tackle some challenges on your own, it’s more efficient to outsource to experts who know the best way to handle things. Working with various consultants during your tenure as a restaurateur will only benefit your business and enrich your expertise.

FAQs About Restaurant Consultants

1. What Does a Restaurant Consultant Do?

Restaurant consultants are external experts that identify problems restaurants face, offer solutions, and then find ways to implement these solutions. Consultants work with a business temporarily and are not considered employees of the restaurant

2. How Much Do Restaurant Consultants Charge? 

Restaurant consultants charge about $50 per hour, on average. For more complex projects or retainers, consultant fees can range from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

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